It’s was a surprise. The Star-Advertiser’s Mason-Dixon Poll had Rick Blangiardi and Colleen Hanabusa early on as the top two candidates for Honolulu mayor. Keith Amemiya had spent the most  — about $1.5 from contributors and $400,000 of his own money— but was dogged by flyers  citing a poor record on Title 9 girls’ sports issues while leading the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. But last night, Amemiya was a strong #2 and Hanabusa a trailing #3.

The Blangiardi-Amemiya November runoff will be especially interesting because the polling shows Blangiardi heavily favored by many Republicans. Amemiya is a member of the Democratic Party. Blangiardi says he’s an an independent.  He’s backed by the Ben Cayetano family but has many signs in former Republican congresswoman Pat Saiki’s yard in Waialae-Kahala. Then there’s that haole versus AJA consideration. Where will Hanabusa’s AJA voters go?

Blangiardi is new to politics and government administration. He’s best known to voters because of his editorials on Hawaii News Now when he was its general manager. He was dogged during the Primary by a Civil Beat story of his participation in a smelly real estate deal many years ago, but in the end that seems to have been ignored by voters.  Amemiya’s contributor list seems to show Honolulu’s power structure on his side. Like Blangiardi, he loaned his campaign a large chunk of money.

I’m most puzzled by the weak showing of Hanabusa and even weaker by Mufi Hannemann. Was it that both were closely connected with building the not-very-popular train from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center? But both Blangiardi and Amemiya support building the train out to the AMC terminal. Was it Hanabusa’s loss in the governor’s race last time around, or Hannemann’s losses at every level from governor to Congress? Or was it voters tired of same-old?

I ask that last question because I’m stunned that incumbent Harry Kim came in third in the Hawaii Island mayor’s race. We’re talking about Saint Harry Kim!!

The extremely poor showing of Choon James for Honolulu mayor — about 5,000 votes in the Primary — surprised me. I did not expect her to get anywhere close to the top, but thought her activism against the Kahuku windmills and other less-than-popular city projects such as rail to Ala Moana Center would draw a much larger number of supporters. It shows that money counts — for incessant TV advertising and campaign people spread around Oahu. Poor does poorly. The top spenders were the top mayoral vote getters. That never seems to change in our local or national politics.

The General will not be just about money and personality. There remains the big issue of who is most ready to step in and handle our serious budget issues while maintaining critical city services. New blood or old blood? A former TV executive or a former insurance executive?  That AJA vote. Who’s the most stimulating debater? Which labor and development groups will give the most money and support to which candidate?

The heavyweight bout begins.


Published by Bob Jones

Journalist since age 19. St. Petersburg Times, Noticias y Viajes in Madrid, Overseas Weekly in Frankfurt and Paris, the Louisville Courier- Journal, the Honolulu Advertiser, KGMB-TV, NBC News foreign correspondent in Africa and Southeast Asia, and MidWeek columnist. LL.B LaSalle University Law. 3 years in the U.S. Air Force. Covered: Vietnam War, Iraq #1 in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. Married to Denby Fawcett, one daughter. Brett Jones.

4 replies on “And Now The Heavyweight Title Bout”

  1. David and I voted for Hanabusa. Too bad she lost. She would have been a fine mayor. But, I am glad that both Blangiardi and Amemiya favor the rail going to AMC. Very important issue for me.

  2. Amemiya appears to be in a very strong position to win the General Election.

    He’s done a good job posing as as outsider who would purge City Hall of political rot, even if he’s actually another puppet of the same forces and interests that control the current putrid regime: the big public employee unions, the developers and bankers, rail contractors, and a faction of Democratic Party bosses.

    He’s young, good looking, cheerful, AJA, and looks like your modest Pearl City neighbor who drives his Camry home from the office and goes for a walk with his wife, kids, and dog. Most voters won’t look beyond that comforting perception.

    And now that Hanabusa is out of the race, the anti-Amemiya advertising and rumor mongering that clearly was conducted for her benefit, if perhaps not at her explicit direction, will evaporate unless someone else launches a new wave.

    Blangiardi made quite a strong showing for an aged haole political upstart who talks funny and is not too cuddly, and no doubt benefited handsomely from years of TV exposure and posturing on the station he used to run.

    Some would say he abused that position to promote himself and build his political position. Others would say that was a smart move and that voters will see no problem there.

    Blangiardi has a strong chance in the General but will have a tough time attracting those voters who supported Hanabusa, Pine, or Hannemann, or who sat out the Primary Election but are anxious to vote against Trump in the General.

    Incidentally, the Primary results were mostly predicted here on July 20, except for Hannemann’s surprisingly poor showing.

    Voters obviously wanted a change and Hannemann’s campaign started late and never seemed particularly energized. His poorly designed dark blue campaign signage (after Hanabusa preemptively snatched his customary red and white) was cluttered and just didn’t pop, the signs were small and few, and no army of waving supporters seemed to materialize.

    Pine, by contrast, had bright and simple green signage and lots of wavers lining Fort Weaver Road and other major commuter arteries, and fared surprisingly well. If Hanabusa is looking for something to blame for her close-but-no-cigar third place finish, she should definitely look in Pine’s direction.

    At any rate, the General Election should be very interesting. Old will be pitted against new, but with images reversed. Blangiardi is older but his approach is definitely new. Amemiya is younger but seems to really be a camouflaged extension of Caldwell.

    And there’s that wild card in the mix: the federal investigation that seems to be closing in on City Hall and taking a hard look at Amemiya’s cousin, City Managing Director Roy Amemiya, who was subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury that could soon issue indictments.

    It may not be fair to connect Keith Amemiya with any troubles of Cousin Roy, but politics are seldom fair and voters are not always discerning, to say the least.

    So grab your popcorn and place your bets!

  3. We’ve now had three consecutive OJT Presidents, why not two mayors (Oahu and Big Isle)— people have been saying somethings apparently

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