What's the mayor's next move?
EVER the sportsman, Mayor Mufi Hannemann likens his political position to one on a basketball court.
"I think it is like being inside the key. Before I was on the perimeter, but now I'm on the inside," he says.
Indeed, Honolulu's incumbent mayor, by definition, is always an insider, but Hanne-mann appears headed for his re-election race in unusually strong shape.
On the surface, Hannemann's popularity is puzzling.
Although his increasing taxes, sewage spills washing up on Waikiki beaches and active battles with the Environmental Protection Agency would appear to make Hannemann an easy target, the 52-year-old former City Councilman appears ready to run without any formidable opposition.
If the likely opponent is to come from the Council, then Hannemann might get re-elected without having to fire a shot, because three of the most ambitious Councilmen -- Donovan Dela Cruz, Charles Djou and Rod Tam -- have all filed organizational papers with the Campaign Spending Commission saying they are seeking the office of lieutenant governor.
So if Hannemann is on track to win re-election, what then?
That's the option play that has the 6-foot-7 Democrat smiling.
If he wants, Hannemann can run for governor in 2010 -- he would have to resign as mayor, and he will have questions trailing him next year about whether he is a two-year or four-year mayor, but he would be a formidable candidate.
A Hannemann run for governor could result in a face-off with U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is running and likely to be returned to Congress next year. But although Abercrombie declines to discuss it, he has held meetings with supporters about a run for governor in 2010.
If Abercrombie goes for governor, it would open up his congressional seat, which would tempt Hannemann, a Fulbright Scholar and Presidential Fellow who acknowledges he would like someday to be in Congress.
Or finally Hannemann, a careful student of history, could just finish out a second mayoral term in 2012 and then run for the Senate, if Sen. Dan Akaka, who would be 88, decides to retire.
That final option is the sort of political version of the classic basketball pick and roll, where Hannemann blocked for Akaka with a strong endorsement in Akaka's 2006 race and Akaka then tosses the ball to Hannemann in 2012. That's the sort of sports analogy that a Harvard graduate like Hannemann would understand.