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Cayetano mulls over possible contenders for governor's race


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POSTED: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One of the best political handicappers in town, former Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano was giving his own rundown last week on the upcoming race for governor.

Although the race really won't start until April or May of next year, the top candidates are doing more than sniffing the wind.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, for instance, has a group of supporters holding weekly meetings to start plotting the campaign. Abercrombie has come close to announcing already, but supporters say they want to nail down the rules on transferring money from his federal campaign account to a state account before announcing.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is not discouraging speculation that he will leave City Hall for a gubernatorial run, nor is he making any promise that Honolulu Hale is his home for four years.

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case is mulling over another try for governor but faces a crowded field.

And Senate President Colleen Hanabusa probably needs the best political fortunetelling skills because if she wants to win next year, she will have to decide between governor and either the 1st or 2nd Congressional District.

“;All of them are pretty smart,”; said Cayetano during an interview about his new autobiography, “;Ben.”;

Cayetano, a veteran of 28 years in elected state office, observes that all come with baggage.

“;Case's baggage is running against (Sen. Daniel) Akaka,”; Cayetano says, noting that Case lost soundly when he challenged Hawaii's much-loved junior senator.

For Abercrombie, Cayetano said the feisty, 70-year-old Democrat has two arms full of baggage.

“;Neil has been away from home for a long time, and his age, although he is still stronger than most people,”; Cayetano said.

Baggage for Hanabusa, according to Cayetano, is the Waianae senator's close relationship with developer Jeff Stone, which Cayetano has questioned.

For Honolulu's mayor, the former governor said Hannemann's “;ambition always gets in the way.”;

“;I have no doubt that he will run,”; Cayetano said.

This race for governor next year will prove tricky for Cayetano, who admits to having supported Case in 2002 over his own lieutenant governor, Mazie Hirono, and he has always been a strong Abercrombie supporter.

Cayetano speculates that if Hannemann does go against Abercrombie for governor, Hanabusa will jump to Abercrombie's vacant 1st Congressional District and run there.

In a candid prediction, Cayetano says if it is Abercrombie against Hannemann, the early betting would be with Hannemann “;because he has been here and Neil has been away in Washington.”;

Even Cayetano admits that if Case enters the race for governor, “;Wow, that really confuses things.”;

That is probably Cayetano's biggest understatement.