RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Yokozuna Asashoryu was awarded the Mayor's Cup by Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on June 9 on the first day of sumo action at the Blaisdell Arena. Hannemann has made it official that he's running for re-election in 2008.
Re-election fundraiser draws 3,500
Hannemann is already preparing in spite of what some view as a strong incumbency
STORY SUMMARY »
Although no challengers loom on the horizon, Mayor Mufi Hannemann has begun his campaign for reelection, raising more than $87,500 at a stew dinner last week.
The mayor insists he is looking at nothing beyond the 2008 election.
"We are running hard and making it known that I am running for mayor. ... I don't want to get caught resting on my laurels or thinking that no one will run," Hannemann said. "I've seen negative things happen when incumbents get fat and sassy."
Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, meanwhile, says he is leaning against a run for mayor because he could not promise to complete the four-year term.
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Mayor Mufi Hannemann launched his re-election campaign last Tuesday with a $25-per-person fundraiser that drew 3,500 supporters to feast on different kinds of stew and listen to their candidate rattle off reasons why he should return to Honolulu Hale.
Money for Mufi
Mayor Mufi Hannemann had already raised more than $1 million before his most recent fundraiser. The following covers the reporting period from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2006:
» Raised -- $182,938
» Spent -- $13,253
» Cash -- $1,058,130
» Debts -- 0
The cash from Tuesday's fundraiser will probably be included in the next report due to the Campaign Spending Commission on July 30. The report will cover Jan. 1 to June 30.
"Overall, if he turned out 3,500 people for a fundraiser, it becomes a big event," said political scientist Neal Milner. "It's fairly impressive."
While Hannemann has made it official that he's going to run again for mayor, he's coy about whether he will seek a higher office.
"I'm just looking at 2008 and nothing beyond," Hannemann said.
It's also not clear if Hannemann will face any opposition.
"We are running hard and making it known that I am running for mayor," Hannemann said the morning after the fundraiser. "I want to be prepared and I don't want to get caught resting on my laurels or thinking that no one will run. I've seen negative things happen when incumbents get fat and sassy."
Campaign watchers, however, said Hannemann has a lot to be fat and sassy about at this juncture.
"An incumbent is always very strong," Milner said. "How strong is he as a strong incumbent? I would say pretty strong."
Milner said one of the ways candidates lose the incumbency advantage is "if you do something that really ticks off a lot of people." And in some of Hannemann's more controversial issues, Milner said he hasn't seen that happen.
"The issue of property taxes, which was a sticky one for him, I think he probably managed that in a way to avoid real serious political trouble," he said. "The sewer one, that's an interesting one. It doesn't appear like he's very vulnerable on that one. If he wins the fight against the feds, he looks pretty good, but if he loses, it's not so much his responsibility as much as it is the feds."
Milner is referring to the pressure the city is under from the federal government to update its aging sewer system.
Councilman Gary Okino, who campaigned for Hannemann's opponent in 2004, now describes himself as a "strong supporter" of the mayor and he said he marveled at the number of people he saw at the mayor's fundraiser.
"It was packed," Okino said. "I think he's a very popular guy."
Okino said that besides Hannemann's popularity, the mayor also has a solid record to run on.
"I think he's done a good job. He's stuck to his principles. He's tried to do what's right. I think he has good judgment as to what the basic needs are of the city. He's tried to do the things that are really essential," Okino said.
The fundraiser "was a necessary step towards that goal of raising sufficient money, and the other part of it was attracting people to come -- that's why my fundraiser was $25," Hannemann said. "I wanted to make it affordable. To have 3,500 people come from different parts of Oahu and from the neighbor islands -- very, very gratifying."
Hannemann has amassed well more than $1 million already in his campaign war chest and the election is more than a year away.
"We're preparing for a race that would be costly because of my experience the last time I ran. And I don't want to take anything for granted even though no one has surfaced yet. I don't want to assume we're going to be without a credible opponent," Hannemann said.
But those who have been named as possible candidates disagree that money will win the election -- after all, Hannemann was 2-to-1 behind his opponent, former Councilman Duke Bainum, in spending when he won the record $6 million race in 2004.
Councilman Charles Djou, a critic of the Hannemann administration, can't run again for the City Council because of term limits. He said he hasn't decided what, if any, office he may run for in 2008.
"Currently I'm not actively campaigning for mayor. I'm not looking at it, but I have not entirely ruled it out," Djou said. "Obviously the size of a candidate's war chest is a factor in an election. ... I think ideas you have as candidate on what you want to do as mayor are far more important."
Former Congressman Ed Case said he has been asked to consider running for mayor, but, while he has not ruled out a bid, it is more likely that he will run for a state or federal office.
"I know there is a strong possibility I wouldn't fill out the (mayor's) term," Case said. "With the governor's race in 2010 and the congressional races ongoing, to run for mayor on a four-year term knowing I may well not finish that term doesn't seem to me to be the right thing to do."
Case said that those who have contacted him about jumping into the mayor's race want a change at City Hall.
"What I can tell from people that have contacted me is a very strong sentiment against Mayor Hannemann's re-election," Case said. "There certainly -- despite the mayor's desire to project an aura of invincibility -- certainly are strong objections to him continuing as mayor, so it's hard to listen to people asking you to run without you considering it."
The mayor thinks otherwise.
"We have a good record. I'm proud to take that out on the road and campaign. Everybody knows I love to campaign," he said.
Milner said at some point it may become too late for a candidate to jump into the race and be a formidable candidate against an incumbent, although Honolulu has had a tradition of having contested mayoral elections.
"What the precise timeline is, I don't know," Milner said. "But you've got to do something to overcome the advantage of incumbency. Money is not the only thing you need. You certainly need a fair amount of resources and you need it fairly quickly to get things started. Some time within the next four months, someone needs to come forward fairly seriously."