Mayor finds obstacle on fast track to re-election
A funny thing happened to Mufi Hannemann on the way to another term as mayor: He ran into Ann Kobayashi.
The race seemed so in the bag before Kobayashi joined the fight. Hannemann, 54, was gathering more and more strength as his campaign rolled in more than $2 million and the supporters swarmed to his team.
But, as Mike Tyson once said, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit."
So if the 71-year-old former state senator and current City Councilwoman punches, how much damage can she do?
In 1994, Kobayashi ran in a crowded field of 12 for mayor that did not include Honolulu's longest-serving mayor, Frank Fasi, who was off on an unsuccessful try for governor. Kobayashi also lost, coming in third, below Jeremy Harris and Arnold Morgado and ahead of Gary Gill.
Fourteen years ago Kobayashi had been lured into the race with the same thinking that attracts many legislators to county or statewide office: "Everybody knows me and loves me, just look at the reception I get at the Capitol."
Big wheels in the Capitol rarely roll further.
Kobayashi frames herself as an anti-Hannemann. She says she is the kinder, gentler transit supporter. Kobayashi says go cautious, build an elevated transit system that runs on rubber tires, while Hannemann has successfully rammed through his build-it-big-and-fast rail plan.
Kobayashi also could have some powerful allies. Gov. Linda Lingle and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa have no use for Hannemann, and whatever political future they envision, Hannemann's possible candidacy for governor, Congress or even the U.S. Senate casts a shadow over their careers.
Finally, the rail controversy has painted Hannemann into a corner because he has propped a pro-transit public relations effort with his own campaign money, meaning that he is essentially fighting a war for his own survival on two fronts: Win rail and win re-election.
Kobayashi has to convince voters that she can do transit without Hannemann's drama and reassure Honolulu that she can vigorously give hope to a city with dwindling resources and increasing demands.
This is not an easy campaign for either Hannemann or Kobayashi. Hannemann's money and public recognition outpace Kobayashi's, but Hannemann's style begs to be answered by a softer, kinder candidate. Still the advantage always goes to the incumbent, especially one leading in money and name recognition.
Can Kobayashi cause enough trauma to deny Hannemann a knockout in the primary? Possible, but remember, "Rocky" was a movie, not real life.