Who’s testing the wind in 2010?
Just like the effects of a hurricane are felt days before the storm makes landfall, Hawaii's 2010 race for governor is already ruffling our local political waters.
The possible candidates in the Democratic primary right now appear to be state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and former Rep. Ed Case. If all four actually run in 2010, each has special challenges.
Hanabusa, for instance has the title "governor" on her short list of "Things I would like to be." Claiming the prize will take some steady footwork. Hanabusa is already practicing.
As strong as she is in her home Leeward district, it is not an area with much voter turnout, so she needs a bigger base. The outer islands, according to several Democratic politicians and campaign advisers, could provide the support for the 56-year-old attorney.
Hanabusa's challenge is to grow that base. As Senate president, her fellow senators could provide their own power centers.
The tricky part is that Hanabusa needs the help of all her neighbor island Democrats, including those who oppose the Hawaii Superferry. And she cannot remain as Senate president without the help of those on Oahu who support the Superferry. Catering to those two group means more vamping than real action.
It is politically smart to talk about doing something, while doing little. But if the Superferry sails away, folks will notice who helped and who hurt.
If the state as a whole is as solidly in favor of the Superferry as today's Star-Bulletin poll indicates (see page A1), then Hanabusa's role as a leader is diminished by the time spent in the caucus room instead of on the Senate floor moving legislation.
For Hannemann, the great issue is himself. His two and a half years in office have not been marked with much on which to base a campaign. The City Council, which had welcomed Hannemann in 2005, is now a fountain of anti-Mufi resentment.
Today, although it appears Hannemann, 53, will have only token opposition and is guaranteed re-election, the choice to make is either to jump into the race for governor or ride out a second term and possibly run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Hannemann isn't giving away any hints. Last month he was walking in the Maui County Fair parade, the month before that he was lobbying in Washington.
Interestingly, Hanabusa, Hannemann and Abercrombie all will have to make the decision of their careers for the 2010 race. Hanabusa and Hannemann will be in midterm and will have to resign to run for governor. Abercrombie, 69, will have to chose between running for Congress or governor.
Most observers say for all three of them, if they run and lose, it is likely the end of their political careers, making 2010 the hurricane season to watch.