Former Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to prioritize affordable housing in run for governor

Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he wants to prioritize the affordable housing crisis if elected governor.
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 7:58 AM HST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2022 at 8:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he wants to prioritize the affordable housing crisis if elected governor.

Confirming his run in an interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, Caldwell said he would make it possible for every person who wants to rent or purchase an affordable home, and would build tens of thousands of additional units in the coming years on state land.

“I’m running for governor to really pivot because the pandemic has shown the fractures that already existed there,” Caldwell said. “There’s no going back to where we were.”

In the interview, he also said he supported both defueling the Red Hill tanks and construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Caldwell was first elected in 2012 and served two terms as Honolulu mayor. Under his administration, his priorities included road paving projects, homeless initiatives, protected bike lanes and climate change.

But it was a bittersweet end to his tenure as mayor as public sentiment soured because of the coronavirus pandemic, rail and other issues.

Much of Caldwell’s last year as mayor was marked by outdoor press conferences, mask wearing and imposing some of the toughest COVID restrictions.

Caldwell previously told Hawaii News Now that the darkest days during his eight-year administration involved locking down Oahu the first time in March, knowing the severe consequences.

Caldwell said he still supports the Safe Travels program today and would take continue to take a more cautious, wait-and-see approach with restrictions.

“I actually kind of like that program because I think it’s a way to monitor visitors who are coming into our state and making sure that we’re protecting our citizens, and therefore I would keep it in place for a lot longer and monitor how things go around the world with the different variants and getting everyone vaccinated,” Caldwell said.

He also addressed the Kealoha public corruption controversy that he’s been wrapped up in after his closest associates at Honolulu Hale — former Corporation Counsel Donna Leong and former Managing Director Roy Amemiya — were indicted in January.

“We recruited Donna and Roy because of their extensive experience in the private and public sector over decades, and that experience is stellar in terms of hard work, integrity and honesty,” he said. “We asked them to come to our administration for all of those reasons. And I believe that there’s no way that a person like Donna and Roy would do anything that was in violation of law or do something that was somewhat that was wrong.”

Caldwell was not charged, but political experts say the investigation likely jeopardized his run.

“For most people, they are going to assume that the mayor had some kind of knowledge and that will make a campaign for governor almost impossible,” said HNN political analyst Colin Moore.

Moore also said that potential candidate for lieutenant governor Kieth Amemiya may suffer some damage from being related and sharing a name with Roy Amemiya, one of those charged.

So far, Caldwell will face Lt. Gov. Josh Green and former First Lady Vicky Cayetano on the Democratic side in the race for governor.

U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele also told Hawaii News Now he wouldn’t rule out a run for governor.

But as HNN previously reported, Caldwell has been well behind in the money race, which political analysts say could be due to the arrests of his former cabinet members.

But Caldwell’s campaign said the former mayor didn’t feel it was appropriate to hold a lot of fundraisers during the holidays and that his campaign is now gaining momentum.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Big Island business consultant Paul Morgan and Hawaii veteran and US Indo-Pacific Command program manager Lynn Mariano, and Gary Cordero — the head of the Aloha Freedom Coalition — have announced their candidacies.

Other possible candidates for the GOP include developer Peter Savio, UFC legend BJ Penn.

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