The unexpected battle


POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The mayor's race has become a showdown many did not expect.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann versus City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi.

For months it appeared that Hannemann, a popular incumbent who raised about $3 million in campaign funds, would win re-election easily. Even when Kobayashi entered the race late—on July 22, the last day possible—many, including Hannemann, were confident he would win outright in the primary election by capturing more than 50 percent of the votes.

But with the help of former mayoral candidate University of Hawaii-Manoa engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, Kobayashi was able to hold off Hannemann, who garnered 49 percent of the votes.

Hannemann is running on his accomplishments during the past four years at Honolulu Hale, boasting about his record on fix- ing Oahu's aging sewer system and roads. Kobayashi, on the other hand, is running on a platform of change, saying she would reform City Hall by creating a more open and honest government.

The two longtime politicians differ on many issues—including on the future of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill and approaches to help bolster the declining economy—but none as significant as their stances on Honolulu's mass transit system.

Both support a mass transit project but disagree over the technology of the system. Hannemann is planning for a rail mass transit project while Kobayashi continues to push for an enhanced bus service.

But after the general election, the choice for the system's technology will no longer be up to either candidate—an issue left up to the voters on a proposed City Charter amendment.

Hannemann has received the endorsement of several public unions, including the major union representing government employees and those representing police officers and firefighters. Kobayashi got the endorsement of the local chapter of the Sierra Club and, more important, from Prevedouros.

Kobayashi hopes to capture the votes cast for Prevedouros—17 percent, or 28,792 votes, in the primary election—by naming him her campaign's senior adviser for infrastructure and by compromising her plans on mass transit.

The campaign trail leading up to Nov. 4 has been more combative than in the weeks prior to the Sept. 20 primary election. Both have led more aggressive attacks in advertisements and public remarks on each other's record and leadership style.

Kobayashi keeps emphasizing that she would stay as mayor for the four-year term, while Hannemann could only promise two years with an open governor's race or a possible run for Congress in 2010.