It’s my intention right now to leave the Honolulu mayor section on my General Election ballot blank. It will be the first time I left any ballot choice blank since the old days when I really didn’t know squat about any of the OHA candidates — when non-Hawaiians were first cleared to vote in that election.

I know it’s generally frowned upon to submit blank ballots. The thinking is that somebody is going to be elected, so you might as well have your reluctant choice counted. In this race, however, neither candidate strikes me as highly qualified and neither has notable following.

The two only managed just short of 46% of the primary vote between them — meaning that 54% of you wanted somebody else? That says forgetaboutit. Who cares?


My issues — and maybe those of many of the 56% — are that Rick Blangiardi has absolutely no government experience for handling the serious budgetary and policy matters created by the pandemic. Keith Amemiya  has very limited government experience as one member on two City commissions  and steerage of NCAA public school athletics.

Amemiya ran an insurance holding company. Blangiardi two television stations. So what? I twice temporarily ran a multi-million-dollar TV news operation, but I sure don’t know a damn thing about keeping the rail project going while finding money for all those City worker salaries and benefits. And I’m smart enough to know what I don’t know.

True, one of those men will be elected. He’d be elected if he just got two votes and the other got one. But my blank ballot could be one of, say, 100,000 or more. That would certainly send a message of popular discontent or that ainokea movement.

I’d have preferred Colleen Hanabusa or Kym Pine or even Mufi Hannemann at this scary Covid moment. If you love “fresh faces” why not Bud Stonebraker or Choon James?  A minister and a community advocate. And you couldn’t have gotten anyone “fresher” than David Duke Bourgoin!  John Carroll has gotten a bit dotty but at least  he worked on public budgets years ago as a state senator. That’s a lot more relevant background than either Amemiya’s or Blangiardi’s. Hanabusa, Pine and Hannemann have wrestled with government budgets for many years.

The top two drew only 45% of the total vote. The next six drew 51%.

I’m thinking back to 2008 when voters rebelled in City Council District 5. Duke Bainum was running unopposed and was guaranteed to win. A group called “Voice for Choice” claimed it did not oppose Bainum but rather the process that kept Kirk Caldwell from running against him. Bainum had gotten on the ballot at the last minute, but Caldwell did not, leaving some residents upset over the election rules. When it was over, only 20,238 people had voted for Bainum —  57% of the vote. There were 15,114 blank ballots, or 43% of the vote. Not exactly a vote of full confidence!

What’s called an “intentional undervote” — leaving part of your ballot blank does not affect your votes on other portions of the ballot. They will be counted.

I’d prefer Ranked Choice Voting instead of our primary system. In that, voters pick a first-choice candidate and have the option to rank backup candidates in order of their choice: second, third, and so on. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an “instant runoff.” The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate wins with more than half of the votes.

A couple of experts on American voting habits found that on average 30% of you leave some part of your ballots in our system blank. Usually, they say, in local rather than national elections.

The two are David Axelrod, a Democrat and director of the public Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, and Mike Murphy, Republican and longtime consultant to governors and senators. They write:

“Our decades in politics, advising candidates at the local, state, and national level, have taught us that elected officials matter all the way down the ballot. They make decisions that affect our lives every day — from monitoring water quality to levying taxes and deciding how that money will be used to choose the leadership of our schools. If these officials make poor policy decisions, the consequence can be costly.”

I agree. But this is my first Hawaii voting year in which I ask myself “can either of these mayor candidates be trusted to make the big decisions ahead on taxes, spending and schools that will be needed because of the virus disruption?”

I came up with a “no.”

If the winner turns out to be great, I’ll congratulate him on graduating into the Qualified Class.

If not, I’ll be able to say “I didn’t vote for him.”


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: Biafran War in Nigeria (1968) Vietnam War (1969-73), Iraq in 1991. George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished journalism for reporting in China. 2 Emmys for documentaries. Married to journalist Denby Fawcett; one daughter. Brett Jones, foreign service officer, State Department.

11 replies on “Drawing A Blank In The Mayor Election”

  1. Well, both candidates have their heart in the right place. Both care about Hawaii. David and I plan to vote for Amemiya. We hope he can find some way to get the rail to Ala Moana. Why would anybody want to get off in Chinatown? I might as well drive my car to Ala Moana and not take the rail.

    As for OHA, I just leave it blank, as I am not Hawaiian and have no interest in OHA.

  2. Just a programming note, but Amemiya also was a member of the Board of Education, the Stadium Authority, and worked for the University Board of Regents. Maybe you didn’t mention those as they are State, but seems to me in the context of government experience, especially when Blangiardi has none, its important.

  3. I, too, am thinking about leaving my ballot blank. I’m not excited about either candidate. Amemiya’s Midweek stunt was upsetting to me. Blangiardi, well, I just don’t think he has it.

  4. I too will leave my ballot blank I don’t want anybody to say I voted for either candidate Italian Mafia or Yakuza, I voted for Bud Stonebraker period.

  5. I’m leaning that way myself, basically on the rail issue, which must be stopped Ewa of Aala Park. Anyone who wants to take it further doesn’t care about Honolulu Chinatown or downtown or citizens. I do blame Mufi, Kurt, Colleen, some Greedy Unions for this utter mess. At least Choon has faithfully followed city government, speaking up!

  6. Your distinct unenthusiasm is widely shared, but leaving the ballot blank still seems like a cop-out.
    At any rate, you bring up some interesting history that is worth reexamining for benefit of the uninitiated and could portend future events.
    Caldwell’s bungled 2008 attempt to run for City Council was the prelude to him becoming The Accidental Mayor and executor of so much blundering since then.
    To recap: Kobayashi had launched a last-minute “sneak attack” campaign to run against Mayor Hannemann, who was seeking reelection and until then had no real challenger. Kobayashi’s scheme required her to quickly resign from her Council seat. Bainum seemed to, ahem, have had prior knowledge and immediately announced he would run to replace Kobayashi on the Council, having hastily secured a mailing address in that Council district to qualify for the ballot while of course retaining his opulent Kahala manor.
    Caldwell was then, ahem, persuaded to abruptly resign his safe seat in the state House of Representatives and run for the Council to thwart Kobayashi’s apparent handoff to Bainum. But Caldwell blew it by not formally abandoning his House race before filing to run for the Council, thus getting himself disqualified from both races and leaving the patrician Palaka Prince of Manoa out in the cold like a scruffy street urchin peering into the bountiful candy store.
    What was really driving these Keystone Kandidates? The smart money says control of the rail project, the project’s route and redevelopment opportunities for adjacent properties, and the specific type of trains to be utilized and the entities that would qualify to supply them. Somehow, the media mavens never figured much out.
    After Kobayashi choked on her vapid campaign for Mayor, newly reelected Hannemann was, ahem, apparently persuaded to park his managing director elsewhere and appoint Caldwell to that post as a consolation prize so Caldwell would later become Acting Mayor when Hannemann stepped down to run for Governor, thus giving Caldwell a head start to subsequently run for a full term as Mayor, a post in which he had never before showed any interest but was, ahem, felt by some to be owed as recompense for the residual egg on his face. But Caldwell couldn’t pull that one off either and lost to a half-assed campaign by former Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who for some reason had decided to shrug off that safe position and instead put his feet up in the Mayor’s Office.
    We all know what happened next.
    Carlisle cruised through two wacky years as Mayor then lost to Caldwell, who by that time had enough self-interested buddies attached to do his heavy lifting.
    The Prosecutor’s Office has been in disarray ever since.
    The feds are peering under lots of rocks.
    Bainum expired in office. Kobayashi jumped at the chance to regain her old Council seat and has enjoyed playing Madam Malevolent for another decade while of course accomplishing absolutely nothing of substance.
    Hannemann lost a couple runs for Governor and we got stuck with Abercrombie, then Ige.
    Caldwell got himself reelected with lots of dubious help to defeat a grumpy and poorly executed challenge from Ben Cayetano.
    The rail project has become Oahu’s ever-squawking giant albatross.
    The island is choking on Coronavirus.
    The Accidental Mayor is stumbling through his last months and planning to run for Governor.
    And someone else who doesn’t know what he’s doing will soon be our new Mayor.
    Forget it Jake, it’s Honolulu.

    1. Well Caldwell beating Cayetano wasn’t a re-election for that office. He won re-election in 2016 against Djou.

  7. These comments tell me the mayoral election is unusually unclear. I love trains and the personal touch. Good candidates were eliminated too early, particularly Hanabusa and Hannemann. Both would be up to the job, based on the facts of their experience. Hannemann got around as mayor, and I did personally meet him. Hawaii has wasted his talents, as he could definiteLy do the job.

    Originally, I was for Kim Pyne. I met her at the UH-West Oahu Donors’ Banquet. I’m a big believer in the personal connection, and thought she would be a refreshing mayor.

    I believe the Police Union supports Blangiardi. They probably think that, as a former football coach, he’s a stern law and order guy and like that sort of thing. But that union (I forget its name) is hopeless. Nevertheless, I sort of like Blangiardi. One of my good friends is quite the Blangiardi supporter. His tv editorials were a hoot and personal.

    The Mafia and Yakuza comment is punch-in-the-nose worthy (but not by me, I hasten to add 😇.) Anyhow, Bob Jones abhors censorship. Good on ya, mate, that’s fair dinkum. I’ve been virus-lockdown binge watching Australian TV series on Netflix. They are so good and I recommend them, but I digress.

    Back to the mayoral race, I am the proud and happy Nonno of two wonderful hapa Italian granddaughters. In addition, my girlfriend is hapa Japanese. I’m an 84-year-old, longtime widower, by the way, so that personal relationship is on the up and up. Ethnic slurs are personal to me. Sooner or later in Hawaii an ethnic slur will come back to haunt you.

    I have never heard a bad word about Amemiya. He got universal approval for negotiating the brambly thickets of high school athletics. I have no personal connection at all.

    I am in a quandary. Yet I don’t plan to leave my vote for mayor empty, but I need to think a little more.

  8. God bless America !
    One can CHOOSE to vote – even CHOOSE to NOT vote ! Individual is choice alive and well.

    But why anyone would use this hard fought right to vote to “protest” is puzzling.

    It takes a lot of courage for someone to decide to become a candidate in these days of public microscopic scrutiny. Courage to expose yourself to criticism.
    Courage to say “I love Honolulu – I can do this job – I’d like to be part of the solution – vote for me”
    That all by itself is worthy enough to give your vote to either of these men.

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