Civil Beat-HNN poll: Political newcomer, longtime politician take early leads in mayoral race

Civil Beat’s Chad Blair on the Honolulu mayoral race

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the race for Honolulu’s mayor heats up — though without the typical flurry of campaign events — a political newcomer and a longtime politician have taken early leads.

That’s according to a new Civil Beat-HNN poll conducted of Oahu voters.

Former Hawaii News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi is polling at the top of a crowded field of candidates, with 21% of registered voters on Oahu saying they planned to support him in the primary election in August. Some 15% of voters said they were most likely to support former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Here’s how the other top contenders fared in the poll:

  • Keith Amemiya: 10%.
  • Kymberly Pine: 9%
  • Choon James: 3%

While Blangiardi and Hanabusa are likely to be heartened by the poll numbers, neither can start celebrating just yet. Nearly one-third of voters surveyed remain undecided, unsure who they’ll support for Honolulu Hale’s top spot, and 12% said they weren’t supporting any of the leading contenders for the seat.

In the primary, it takes 50% of votes plus one to win outright.

Otherwise, the top two vote-getters face-off in the general election.

A new Civil Beat shows the race for Honolulu mayor is heating up.
A new Civil Beat shows the race for Honolulu mayor is heating up. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HNN political analyst Colin Moore said Blangiardi’s position in the poll is a “surprise."

“To come in no. 1, even in this poll where people haven’t given the mayor’s race a lot of thought, I think this will give his campaign the boost it needs to move forward over the next couple of months,” he said.

“Because all of a sudden folks who weren’t sure he was going to have a shot or not will see that is a very serious contender now.”

[Read coverage on the race from Civil Beat by clicking here.]

Moore added that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, voters may be swayed to go with someone who has more political experience — and that would benefit Hanabusa.

“That’s really the choice voters are going to be faced with,” he said. “Do they want someone with the business experience? Do they want someone with the government experience.”

Blangiardi spent more than four decades in the broadcasting industry before retiring from HNN in January to run for mayor. He’s said he brings a fresh perspective to problems that have long plagued Oahu.

In a mayor’s forum Wednesday sponsored by the Kokua Council, Blangiardi said his experience in the private sector makes him well-equipped to handle the challenges facing Honolulu because of the pandemic.

“Our economy will have to be rebuilt. Our city budget will have to be balanced,” he said. “One thing we can all be sure: We must get our community back to where we want it to be.”

Hanabusa, a household political name in the islands, is a contrast to Blangiardi.

She was elected to the state Senate in 1998 representing Waianae, and previously served as the first female Senate president.

She also represented Hawaii in Congress, but lost races for U.S. Senate and governor.

She’s said she won’t need “training wheels” as mayor, and told attendees at the virtual Kokua Council forum that her political experience is what’s needed to address Oahu’s problems.

“Government is going to get us out of this,” she said.

A crowded field of contenders is vying for the mayor’s seat as Oahu’s unemployment rate hovers around a staggering 20%, its tourism industry remains shut down, and an economic path to recovery remains unclear.

The poll was conducted from May 18-20, and included 1,038 registered voters on Oahu. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A big segment of Oahu voters are still undecided when it comes to who to support for Honolulu mayor.
A big segment of Oahu voters are still undecided when it comes to who to support for Honolulu mayor. (Source: Hawaii News Now)

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