Honolulu mayoral election could hinge on troubled rail project

Published: Jun. 7, 2016 at 10:01 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 8, 2016 at 7:08 AM HST
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(Image: Peter Carlisle)
(Image: Peter Carlisle)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With former Congressman Charles Djou entering the mayor's race, the future of rail is again at the forefront of a mayoral election.

"As we see this system with its incompetence, its mismanagement and it breaking down all around, no one is stepping up to take responsibility," Djou said during a news conference announcing his candidacy Tuesday.

Djou's best known opponents are Mayor Kirk Caldwell and former Mayor Peter Carlisle. Both are staunch rail supporters. Djou wouldn't stop the project, but opposes any new tax money for it.

Political analyst Dan Boylan says Djou's entrance into the race could set Honolulu up for something of a repeat of the 2012 mayoral race, when anti-rail candidate and former Gov. Ben Cayetano got more votes than Carlisle and Caldwell in the primary. Cayetano then lost to Caldwell in the head-to-head general election run-off.

"I think it's going to be the same thing," said Boylan.

But since the last mayor's race, rail is much farther along. Costs for the project have also ballooned, $5.3 billion to over $8 billion.

Cayetano believes Djou can capitalize on that the growing dissatisfaction.

"In the mayor's race, over 100,000 people voted for me and a lot of them, I think, have buyer's remorse because I can hardly go anywhere without someone coming up to me saying, 'I'm sorry I didn't vote for you. You were right,'" Cayetano said.

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann said running against the rail project is a bad idea.

"I've always maintained that if someone runs on an anti-rail platform to basically stop rail, I don't think they're going to be successful. History has shown that," Hannemann said.

But Hannemann said he likes Djou's chances.

"I think Charles Djou has a very good chance of winning this race. He's able to distinguish himself from the two," he said.

Hawaii's primary election is August 13. If none of the candidates get more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates face each other in a run-off in the Nov. 8 general election.

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