Candidates And Their Chances

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - July 15, 2009

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle announced last week that, should Mayor Mufi Hannemann run for governor in 2010, Carlisle would run for the two years left in Hannemann’s term.

Or, should Hannemann serve out his second term, Carlisle will run for mayor in 2012.

Carlisle will make a formidable candidate. He’s able, articulate and possessed of a self-deprecating sense of humor. He also has a well-developed media sense. He’s kept himself in the courtroom for the big cases and thus before the cameras throughout his three-plus terms as city prosecutor. He so owned his office that last time out no one stepped forth to oppose him.

Carlisle will need all the media savvy and charm he can muster, because prosecutors start with a major disadvantage when running for anything other than another term as prosecutor. No group of political aspirants in the American democracy type-cast themselves as thoroughly as those who run for prosecutor.


They talk of fighting crime, of clanging shut the jailhouse door on murderers, rapists, drug dealers and miscreants of every size and description. They are politics’ toughest guys - and gals.

And therein lies a prosecutor’s electioneering problem: Voters view them as one-dimensional.

Prosecutors weep for victims of crimes but for no one else, at least not before the cameras. They never speak of transportation woes, high property taxes, garbage pickups, cleaner parks or potholes.

So when a prosecutor seeks to become a mayor or a governor or a United States senator, he must restring his guitar, adding five or nine new ones to the one he’s been playing for so long. That’s not always easy. City Council members running for mayor - even a former state legislator - have an easier time of it.

A couple of weeks ago, state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu announced the formation of an “exploratory committee” to help him decide whether he will run for lieutenant governor in 2010.

Why he needs to explore this is beyond me. No one runs for lieutenant governor - certainly no one Karamatsu’s age. Politicians who run for lieutenant governor are running for governor. They are willing to spend four to eight years of their lives doing nothing in anticipation of running for governor - where, barring a totally obstructionist Legislature, they can do something.

The other class of politician who runs for LG are those seeking to retire with a “high three.” Despite the meaninglessness of the LG’s job, it pays $105,000 per year. If you’ve spent 20 years or more in the state Legislature, it would be the perfect office in which to cruise into your retirement years.

And cruise you would. The lieutenant governorship defines a “cruise job.” High pay, big office, comfortable office chair, adequate staff and no constitutional duties - who could ask for less?

In truth, Hawaii’s lieutenant governorship should be done away with. It wastes both money and prime office space - not to mention that it atrophies the brain of anyone who holds the job for any length of time.

Speaking of “exploratory committees,” Hanne-mann’s continues to do whatever exploratory committees do regarding his possible run for the governorship. “Exploring” such a possibility will undoubtedly require a poll or two, a fundraiser - or three or four - and the circulation of hundreds of petitions to demonstrate the grassroots groundswell of support for such a move.

All this announcing, all this exploring ... and the filing deadline is more than a year away, the general election more than 15 months.

I wish someone - anyone - would explore the possibility of limiting political campaigns to a sane six weeks, not a day more. No “exploratory” period. No announcements 15 months before the polls open.

Just six sane weeks from beginning to end.

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