Mayor looks more like a candidate


POSTED: Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mayor Mufi Hannemann took a step closer toward officially entering the race for governor last night as he hosted a $500-a-ticket fundraiser to fuel his campaign.

Hannemann wrapped up his speech by saying that while he has not yet made up his mind, U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye is lobbying him to run for governor.

“;There is no secret, my friends, and I will say it tonight that Senator Inouye is encouraging us to seek the top seat in Hawaii,”; Hannemann said.

Inouye's office did not respond to calls for comment.

Hannemann told the crowd at the Sheraton Waikiki that he is still waiting.

“;I am not going to declare tonight, the reason being I have unfinished business here at City Hall,”; he said. “;I am not ready yet to say the job is completed.”;

He told the crowd that the city's rail transit project is likely to bring in thousands of new construction jobs.

Appearing for Hannemann were Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares and Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

“;I got to say, 'Thank you, Mayor Mufi, for your leadership,'”; Kenoi said.

Co-chairman Dean Okimoto said the campaign had hoped to sell between 800 and 1,000 tickets.

“;I think we sold 1,000,”; Okimoto said, which translates to $500,000 grossed in a single night.

The campaign is considered exploratory but under state law is a functioning campaign for governor.

Hannemann has not officially declared his can- didacy.

However, his campaign has held 11 fundraisers, including the one last night, as well as gatherings in Los Angeles and Denver.

Guests last night could munch their way through preparations by some of Hawaii's high-profile chefs, including Russell Siu, Chai Chaowasaree, Roy Yamaguchi, Sam Choy, DK Kodama, and Goran Streng.

At the end of July, Hannemann listed campaign contributions of $1.2 million.

In comparison, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Hannemann's would-be Democratic primary opponent, has reported raising $489,000.

Abercrombie declared his candidacy last spring.

Hannemann's campaign Web page lists various groups of supporters, including “;Engineers for Mufi”; with 187 names and “;Women for Mufi”; with 110 supporters.

The main roster of supporters is an A-list of business and community leaders, ranging from Walter Dods, a longtime Honolulu banker and part of the local political brain trust for Inouye and former Gov. George Ariyoshi, to Russell Okata, the local Democratic Party national committeeman and retired Hawaii Government Employees Association executive director.

Hannemann's campaign also lists some prominent Republicans as supporters, including former City Councilman John Henry Felix, restaurant businessman Eddie Flores and Stuart Ho.

Hannemann ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1986 and 1990 and for mayor in 2000.

In 2004, he won the mayor's race and was re-elected in 2008, carefully noting that he might leave office to run for another political post.