Experience Vs. Outsiders Marks City Mayoral Race

Aug 6, 2020

Primary day for the 2020 elections is this Saturday in Hawaii and 15 candidates are running to succeed the two-term mayor, Kirk Caldwell.

The Honolulu Charter limits a mayor to two consecutive terms, so Caldwell is not running.

Based on fundraising and polling numbers, there are five candidates who remain competitive: Current City Councilmember Kym Pine, insurance executive Keith Amemiya, former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, tv news executive Rick Blangiardi, and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.

If one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, they’ll be declared an early winner. If no one cracks 50 percent, the top two finishers in the nonpartisan contest will move on to face each other in the November general election.

At stake are issues ranging from a surge in new coronavirus cases to the future of the city’s much maligned rail transit project.

Previous experience has become the major talking point of the race, with political insiders arguing they can hit the ground running and electoral newcomers making the case for fresh ideas and an outside perspective.

The new mayor will inherit a city bureaucracy plagued for years by charges of corruption.  A federal investigation already led to convictions for a former police chief and a former deputy prosecutor.

Other high-ranking officials have been named as targets of that investigation, including the elected city prosecutor and the Caldwell administration’s top civil attorney.  

The number two in city government -- Managing Director Roy Amemiya -- was also named recently as a subject of federal investigators’ focus, though he's not currently a target for criminal charges.

Remember: traditional polling places are closed and primary election mail ballots have been issued instead. The mail ballots must reach county officials by 7 p.m. Saturday. Postmarks don't count. For more information on where to drop your ballots or to vote in person, go to elections.hawaii.gov.