Circle dance begins for open seats


POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Many of Hawaii's highest-profile leaders are about to play a raucous game of political musical chairs, hoping to land in a bigger and better seat in November 2010.





        Other possible contenders for two key positions:

        Lt. Governor

        » Sen. Gary Hooser (D)

        » City Councilman Donavan Dela Cruz (D)

        » Honolulu Councilman Rod Tam (D)

        » Adrienne King (R)

        » Sen. Robert Bunda (D)

        » Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D)

        » Keith Amemiya (D)

        » Rep. Lynn Finnegan (R)

Honolulu Mayor
        Possible contenders if Mufi Hannemann resigns and runs for governor:
        » City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle
        » City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell
        » City Councilman Duke Bainum
        » Ann Kobayashi
        » Panos Prevadoros




Most of the serious players are saying that to be in the game in 2010, you have to be up and running this year.

The state's top political job is governor, and with no incumbent in the mix, because Gov. Linda Lingle is allowed only two terms, the spot already has three candidates: Republican Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona, Democrat U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and John Carroll.

Aiona got an early jump on the field by showing his interest last year so he could start fundraising.

Abercrombie is the first major Democrat in the mix, but the summer is filled with rumors that either Mayor Mufi Hannemann or state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa will also join the Democratic primary election.

A spokesman for Hannemann said there has been no decision.

“;He has not made any ultimate decision at this time regarding the many political options open to him,”; the Hannemann supporter said.

As for Hanabusa, she is weighing both governor and Abercrombie's soon-to-be vacant urban Honolulu 1st Congressional District.

“;They both have their attractive qualities,”; Hanabusa said.

Her decision will be framed in terms of how much money she can raise, how many Democrats are in the race and how best to continue in politics.

“;It is a question of how you can best serve and what are you best suited for, and that is why I am still looking,”; Hanabusa said.

Hannemann is also mentioned as a possible candidate for Congress. If either runs for the federal post, they would not have to resign from office. But if they go for a state race such as governor, they would have to resign.

That adds a lot of speculation to the mix, especially because there is no shortage of possible candidates to jump in to run for mayor.

First in the speculation is city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, an established politician who previously represented Manoa in the state House. Caldwell has not ruled out a run for mayor.

Also in the mix is City Councilman Duke Bainum, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor. Former Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and even city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle have been mentioned as possible candidates, if Hannemann leaves Honolulu Hale.

Although the political power is negligible, there is no shortage of possible candidates for lieutenant governor. Former Senate President Sen. Robert Bunda says he's about 90 percent ready to announce.

“;Next year is going to be a watershed year, in terms of movement in local politics,”; Bunda says, adding that lieutenant governor is the only race he would consider entering.

State Sen. Norman Sakamoto says he is also mulling over a race, and is talking to friends and family.

Both he and Bunda said they will make a decision this summer.

The possible exodus from the Senate would open spots for others to pursue.

Add to the lieutenant governor mix Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz, who has filed with the Campaign Spending Commission but is not commenting on the race now. Two other possible candidates are GOP House leader Lynn Finnegan and Keith Amemiya, the executive director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association.

Formally in the race are Sen. Gary Hooser, a Kauai Democrat, and City Councilmen Donovan Dela Cruz and Rod Tam—also Democrats. Republican Adrienne King has also filed with the Campaign Spending Commission.

In the race for Abercrombie's congressional seat, the only two sure bets are Democrat Ed Case and Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, who have both formally announced.

But Hanabusa, Hannemann and even Bainum also have given that race some thought.