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Analyst: Peter Carlisle faces tough mayoral fight against incumbent Caldwell

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Former Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle wants his old job back.

Carlisle announced his candidacy Friday, saying voters are looking for a more direct style of leadership in Honolulu Hale.

“A leader doesn’t put their finger to the wind and figure out which way the wind is blowing,” he said, referring to Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Caldwell unseated Carlisle in 2012, and is running for a second term.

Carlisle's announcement ends months of speculation, during which Carlisle sought to curry favor from former Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Speaking at a news conference in Downtown Honolulu, Carlisle said if he's elected, he'll put the embattled rail project at the forefront of his priorities.

“Rail, while it has many problems in terms of costs, there is no doubt that rail is the future of Honolulu,” he said.

Carlisle also criticized efforts to put control off the $6.9 billion project in the hands of the City Council, and blasted Caldwell for what he called a lack of leadership on rail.

Leaders "make a decision dramatically, appropriately and forcefully," he said.

Caldwell's camp brushed off the criticism.

Campaign chairman Lex Smith said Caldwell has "tackled all the challenges presented to him, tackled them head on, and that's what this campaign will be about."

Carlisle faces a tough battle against incumbent Caldwell, who already has $1.6 million in his campaign war chest. So far this year, Caldwell has held five fundraisers, two of them this month alone.

Political analyst Colin Moore says that could be ammunition for Carlisle's attack.

"There's always criticism that Caldwell takes a lot of money from special interests," he said. "And I think Carlisle hinted at that in his comments about being firm on ethical issues," he said.

Moore added that Carlisle's loss to Caldwell in 2012 will be tough to overcome.

"It's hard to make a comeback in politics," he said.

Carlisle served as mayor from 2010 to 2013, and was city prosecuting attorney from 1996 to 2010. He blames "inaccurate accusations" leveled against him for his loss in 2012, and he's ready for another round.

"The only way you're going to right the ship is that if you have a real genuine leader at the helm," Carlisle said.

Carlisle is currently a partner at O’Connor Playdon & Guben.

His announcement comes a day after Caldwell got his first major endorsement -- from the Hawaii Construction Alliance. When asked why he thinks he would make a better mayor than Caldwell, Carlisle said that he would be a better leader who makes firm decisions.

The 63-year-old also said that if elected as mayor, he will likely only serve one term, primarily because of his age.

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