Age, Religion In Governor’s Race

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - January 27, 2010
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Neil Abercrombie

(This column presumes that Mufi Hannemann will run for governor. The writer believes he will.)

Does age matter these days when seeking political office?

Neil Abercrombie would be 73-and-a-half at inauguration if he won the governorship this year.

Age sure hasn’t hurt Dan Inouye’s or Dan Akaka’s electability. But I get the feeling that our governors need more-youthful vigor than members of Congress.

Ann Kobayashi’s age wasn’t an issue this year. We’re pretty loose about those non-partisan, part-time City Council seats.

Abercrombie presents a different problem as a partisan seeking the governor job. The Hawaii Democratic Party is looking for people who can hold offices (i.e. from governor to the Senate) for many years.

That would seem to be Mufi Hannemann, 55 now and 56 when the next governor’s inaugurated.

Hannemann has been perceived in the past as less of a party favorite than Abercrombie, but then we saw Hannemann saying Inouye encouraged him to run and Inouye is not disputing that.

Inouye certainly will not endorse in the primary, but maybe he’s sizing up the age thing as a deep background manipulator - figuring that Hannemann’s got many more Democratic Party years ahead of him than Abercrombie.


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Does religion matter? It’s never been an issue.

Bill Quinn and Jack Burns were Catholics, and the state is heavily Catholic. John Waihee attended a Baptist school. Linda Lingle is Jewish but doesn’t wear it on her sleeve. Duke Aiona is Christian and does. Hannemann is a quiet Mormon in a state that’s heavily Mormon.

Abercrombie hasn’t said what he is or isn’t. I don’t think he’s a religious fellow at all.

I tend to disregard a politician’s religion except in cases such as City Councilman Gary Okino, who said at a legislative hearing that he’d follow the Bible over the law.

Mufi Hannemann

Those kind of people shouldn’t be in public life, because not all constituents vote for the Bible. They all vote for the law.

It’s political suicide for a candidate to raise his opponent’s religion. But will some voters at venues ask Abercrombie “Are you an atheist?”

For Hannemann, there are hidden minefields such as Jon Krakauer’s book Under The Banner of Heaven, which really scorches the Mormon faith. We haven’t had a backlash against Mormonism here since the time of our local White House Conference on Women.

We’ll surely get some “family values” religious tinge during the Aiona campaign, but I’m betting the subject would never come up in an primary between Abercrombie and Hannemann.


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Does race matter?

I don’t peg this as a Caucasian, Samoan, Hawaiian contest. Local boys? Not an issue, because Abercrombie is a UH grad and merits the mantle of keiki o ka aina. I think we surmounted the race-voting thing in the Lingle-Hirono match-up.

It will be a personality contest in which the only sure loser is GOP candidate John Carroll, a former lawmaker but carrying the mark of an uncharismatic outsider.


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The Honolulu mayor’s race should be a doozy.

Peter Carlisle is a talented campaigner but is identified as a core Republican and has no legislative experience.

Kirk Caldwell is a Democrat, former law-maker, and incumbent city managing director (and by July acting mayor.)


How each performs on the stump will decide this race.

The odd men out at this juncture would seem to be City Councilmen Donovan Dela Cruz and Rod Tam. But they’ll make it tough for Carlisle or Caldwell to win on the first ballot.


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