The Odds Are Stacked Against Caldwell

There is an obvious reason why no mayor of Honolulu ever becomes governor of Hawaii.

Every voter on Oahu (where the most votes are) remembers if the mayor did not fix the big pothole on his or her street, even after several calls to City Hall.

Every Oahu voter remembers if the grass and the restrooms in his or her neighborhood park went into decline.

And then there is familiarity. The mayor deals with Neighborhood Boards and tries to tamp down neighborhood squabbles over beach access, unleashed dogs and district homelessness. City voters say “no way I gonna vote for for him [her]. He [she] is pilau.”

The late Frank Fasi kept a grip on the mayor’s office but was rejected for governor. He gave us great bus service but voters suspected he had taken Kukui Plaza kickbacks and was saved from prison only because developer Hal Hansen took an oath of silence and went to prison without saying to whom he gave the kickback money.

Linda Lingle was elected governor but she was Maui County’s mayor. We on Oahu knew little about what she’d done or not done. Besides, former Gov. John Waihee, a Democrat, had earlier been booed at the Waikiki Shell for blowing our rainy day fund and we had another Democrat governor, Ben Cayetano.  Lingle was a Republican. Voters were ready for a change.


Mayor Mufi Hannemann went for governor in 2010 but lost to Neil Abercrombie in the primary.  Was smashed by Tulsi Gabbard in his second go (after also  losing to Abercrombie) for Congress. People had started souring on the train project, Chinatown homeless, and some even said he was too tall!

I mention all this because I’m curious why Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu’s mayor and  announced governor candidate for 2022, would try to break the curse.

It’s not as if he’s wildly popular. He had to be community-wide-challenged before he’d go back on his Ala Moana Park playground project, his Waimanalo Park (Sherwood Forest) ballfields and parking lot project went south after image-damaging protests, and he remains haunted by the train costs and damage to merchants along Dillingham Boulevard. Now the virus damage to local business and our financial situation.

He would have to overcome the head-start of Lt. Gov. Josh Green in a race that sometimes sometimes has given our lieutenant governors  a leg up in  elections. But to for everyone. Those who did not rise to #1 are Jimmy Kealoha, Tom Gill, William Richardson, Nelson Doi, Jean King, Duke Aiona and Mazie Hirono.

In a reverse scenario of the usual movement, former Gov. Ben Cayetano ran for Honolulu mayor in 2012 after he was termed out of the State Capitol. He lost big time.

If there was ever a mayor who might have been a popularly-elected governor it was Neal Blaisdell, a Republican who played footsie with Hawaii’s rising Democratic leadership after statehood.

“Rusty” Blaisdell was extraordinarily popular from the start to his finish in politics in 1969. He beat out Frank Fasi in 1955. He built the Wilson Tunnel and the International Center at Ward and Kapiolani which now bears his name — Fasi promoted that name change.

But he died in 1975 without even thinking about running for governor. He’d had health problems for much of his late life, including pneumonia which sidelined him early in his political aspirations.

There’s a reasonable chance that Colleen Hanabusa could win this years mayor’s race. She has a history here as State Senate president and congresswoman.  If she were to win, would she dump out two years into City Hall to run for governor? That wouldn’t sit well with most voters. But …

“No,” she told me. “This [the mayor job] would be it for me.”

I should have replied: “Historically, a very wise decision.”



Mayor Choon? Mayor Marissa? Mayor Bob?

April 1st is for foolishness. Like me foolishly thinking after some celebratory retirement-from-TV drinks in 1994 that I could run for mayor. I envisioned Vote Bob signs on every lawn!

But back then, voters demanded some political experience before a person tackled City Hall, 8,500 employees and a $2 billion operating budget.

Not now. Political neophytes Choon James, Rick Blangiardi, Keith Amemiya, John McLeod and Marissa Kerns are on the ballot (she says she’s also running for governor in ’22,  and she ran on the GOP ticket for lieutenant governor in the last election.)

My momentary foolish run-for-mayor thought (at the old Byron II Steak House’s bar) ignored how terrible I would have been at the job.

I had issues with the late mayor Frank Fasi, but he gave us TheBus, the grass around City Hall, Satellite City Halls, and our farmers’ markets without asking for the City Council’s okay. Voters elected him six times.

 Eileen Anderson was very different and in her one term mainly listened to what people wanted or didn’t want. She accomplished zilch, and was quickly shown the door by impatient voters.

What we need from our current mayor (and this governor) is some flamboyant inspiration. Like New Yorkers got from Fiorello La Guardia from 1934 to 1945.

He rode the city fire trucks, personally raided city speakeasies, took entire orphanages to baseball games, and when the New York newspapers went on strike, he got on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.

One night in January of 1935, mayor La Guardia turned up at a night court he didn’t like for its harsh sentences against poor people. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. 

We’ve had too much diddling over Ala Moana Park, Sherwood Forest in Waimanalo, a refuse landfill and of course when the train will start and how much it will cost to operate.

(On the governor side, it’s the inability to get a permitted telescope built because some people are blocking the public road to the site.)

Most of us worry mainly about property taxes, job opportunities and the homeless. Now we have this economically-devastating virus attack.

All demanding exceptional, inspirational leaders.

Especially inspirational. Voters will be the judges of that.

Here are some interesting historical facts:

No mayor ever went directly to the presidency, and only three ex-mayors became president: Johnson, Cleveland and Coolidge. Maybe it’s because of something Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1800: “I view cities as pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of man.”

Sam Yorty and John Lindsay – mayors of Los Angeles and New York – failed to gain any traction in a 1972 presidential primary. Rudy Giuliani of New York, proclaimed as “America’s Mayor” in the wake of 9/11, entered the 2008 GOP presidential primary as the polling front runner but finished third in his first primary (Florida), and dropped out. Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley tried in 2016 but never polled above five percent.

Former D.C. mayor Anthony Williams claims this was their main obstruction: “Cities were dangerous and broke. Cities were poorly governed and corrupt. None of this added up to a recipe for a mayor’s broader political success.”

This year, it was adiós to Mayor Pete of South Bend. His city’s violent crime had surged 70% compared to about 10% Indiana-wide. The high school graduation rate declined to 77% — about 11 points lower than statewide.

Next Bob Jones Report: Why no Honolulu mayor ever makes it to Hawaii governor.

Investing In The Time Of The Virus

I’d been handling investment of my family’s 401(k) monies for more than 40 years — very successfully, I can add — but early this year I moved everything under professional portfolio management at Fidelity Investments.

Why? Because for most of those 40 years, moving the invested money into the right mix of stocks and bonds was mainly about keeping up with company earnings, dividends, changes in management and whether some stock was flying too high for its own good.

It involved some discipline but was doable and my wife and I and our daughter did very well.

Then something changed. There was more than just earnings per share or the retirement of a brilliant CEO. Suddenly, market moves were happening on the basis of some political event here or overseas, and maybe whether Chairman Kim fired a new test missile, or didn’t. Or what the Japanese central bank decided to do about interest rates.

Those were things people in New York and Washington knew about well before me in the middle of the Pacific ocean. They were in a stock/bond or out while I was still asleep.

So I decided I needed Fidelity’s experts. Their headquarters is in Boston, but that’s close enough to Washington and on the same time clock.

But like everyone else now with the virus disruption, our portfolios are taking a hit. It’s scary, especially when you’re old and will need the money.

A close friend I’d advised periodically over the years about investing called to ask if she should think about selling. I said no, because you’ll lock in losses that right now are just on paper and probably miss the moment to buy when the market recovers.

Then I had a second thought. It might be tax advantageous to take a big loss if you will also have some big income gain this year and want to offset it with a deduction.

And maybe the market won’t recover!

Other than that, it seems that “steady as she goes, mate” is the best course. If we can’t get this virus under control by fall, however, we’re in the deep doodoo! It will make the tumble so far seem like small stuff.

So at some time it does become incumbent on oldsters like me to consider selling some of what’s left and tucking it under the mattress. If you’re very old, you’re unlikely to live long enough to have that cash eaten up by inflation.

And the economy may even be far too weak to have inflation.

Now I’m going off someplace quiet and think about this.

Why Hawaii Won’t Vote GOP

It’s no secret that I am anti-Trump, and if I were in  government employ I’d be one of those “Deep State” people dragging his feet when told to carry out patents;y ridiculous directives. No, on second thought I’d  quit. I have this underlying sense-of-duty that if you work for the federal government you also work for the President in charge of the government and have a duty to carry out his mandates. Unless the order’s certifiably illegal, you do it.

I have a daughter who is a foreign service officer in the State Department (Hanoi, Kabul, Nepal, Kosovo, Fiji, Australia) and I would expect her to carry out the orders of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even if she finds them poorly designed. She can always quit and take her objections public. She works to make sure our USAID money if well and non-discriminatorily spent regardless who’s in the White House.


My argument (and I’ll be interested to hear feedback from loud-spoken, hard-core Hawaii Trumpists ) is that DT quite often appears to be uneducated in his public remarks, quick to blame others for things that go wrong, flat-out  lies, and outdoes every president in our history in calling other people nasty names or giving them nasty nicknames such as “Pencil Neck.” Do you disagree with that?

I have this deep sense that what he really wants to say is “if you people would just let me run things without having to consult Congress, we’d really get things done!”

I’m not anti-GOP.  I voted first time around for Gov. Linda Lingle (not the second time.) I would not have gone into hibernation had Mitt Romney beaten Barack Obama. I was okay with George Bush until the Iraq war came around. George H.W. until  the “read my lips, no new taxes” quirk. My first presidential vote was for Eisenhower.

But Trump — he plays one group against another. Whites against non-white immigrants. Factory workers against factory investors. He’s unpresidential in his meetings with foreign leaders. He seems to revel in ignoring advisers. Who else in that office has ever publicly said he’s smarter than the generals?

Fake news? Of course not. Most of us in journalism and outside it have an ability to spot falsehoods and disorder within governmental administrations and we who write or broadcast rightfully report those so people know if things are being well run.

Is some news inaccurate. Of course. Mistakes are made, but in most cases I know of they are corrected. And you must learn to separate news from opinion in what you read and see and hear in news media.

My sense is that one reason Hawaii doesn’t have a larger GOP presence is because of GOP history. When the ultras-conservative Pat Robertson movement arose, some of our prominent Republicans switched to Democrat. Then the local party had Willis Lee and Eric Ryan and they alienated more party member. And the   new party chairwoman Sherlene Ostrov, who shares general GOP “rightness” but is not able to bring any significant candidates or any significant number of voters into the party.

People are correct who say the Democrats have spent a lot of money but not done a helluva lot to make this place more affordable, more business friendly. I’d say 100% right and I keep hoping for someone of any party or even a non-partisan to win with a better agenda. I’m tired of the failures!

But the GOP cannot keep putting up the Duke Aionas, John Carrolls, Bob McDermotts and Marissa Kernses. It really needs to support  top-flight and moderate candidates such as Charles Djou, who got little support because he would not fly the GOP flag high enough and quit the GOP and won’t run any more.

It’s basically been the Hawaii story since the start of the 60s.


Remember how Hiram Fong (GOP) easily defeated Tom Gill (D) for the Senate? That and Neal Blaisdell and Hebden Porteus and Pat Saiki and Wadsworth Yee. The great years!

A Bush I or Bush II endorsement for a Hawaii GOP candidate was very valuable. A Trump endorsement now? A kiss of death.

Why? Not just Trump policies. We in Hawaii, like most Pacific territories, have expectations of certain behavior and how we speak of others. Trump has violated those.

He’s not welcome in most of our houses.

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