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‘Not my time’: Former Mayor Kirk Caldwell drops out of race for governor

In a major political shake-up, former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Wednesday that he is dropping out of the race to be Hawaii’s next governor.
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 12:42 PM HST|Updated: May. 4, 2022 at 6:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a major political shake-up, former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced Wednesday that he is dropping out of the race to be Hawaii’s next governor.

In a news release, he cited a lack of funding and momentum as major factors in his decision. He praised his campaign team, but said a lack of funds has impeded their ability to move forward.

“I fully recognize that I am an underdog in this race. In the past, I’ve been the underdog in two of my campaigns for Mayor and won those races, so I’m not afraid to run from behind,” he said.

“However, in this race, I’m not sensing the kind of momentum I know I need in the time we have left to continue to be viable.”

Caldwell also said it was not his time, pointing the difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions he had to make as Honolulu’s mayor during the height of the pandemic.

“Therefore, I have determined that, though it would be a privilege to serve, continuing my campaign for governor is not something I should continue,” Caldwell said.

Experts said Caldwell’s decision to withdraw had less to do with the public’s anger over his handling of the COVID crisis and the county lockdowns and more to do with voter dissatisfaction over the rail project and city public corruption scandals during his tenure as mayor.

“I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. Kirk Caldwell was having a tough time raising money for his campaign, generating momentum for his campaign, the polling didn’t look good,” said University of Hawaii Political Science professor Colin Moore.

“There really wasn’t a path for victory here.”

In the latest campaign spending reports filed in February, gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Josh Green had $1.1 million in his political war chest, compared to Caldwell’s $717,000.

Caldwell, meanwhile, has not held a single fundraiser this year.

Moore believes first-time candidate and businesswoman Vicky Cayetano could gain more from Caldwell’s withdrawal ― especially from among moderate voters.

Cayetano said Caldwell’s announcement was unexpected.

“Like most people I’m surprised and respect the decision he’s made and like every candidate you have to do what you think is best,” she said.

Green, meanwhile, issued this statement:

“I wish Mayor Caldwell and his family the very best, and I appreciate the tough decisions he had to make for the health and well-being of Oahu’s people at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Caldwell did not close off the possibility of running for another race amid rumors that Hawaii Congressman Kai Kahele could throw his hat into the governor’s race.

Former state Sen. Jill Tokuda has already announced she’ll run for the congressional seat, even though Kahele hasn’t made a public announcement about his plans.

But one Caldwell insider said there are no such plans at this time.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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