Wild 2014 Hawaii Election Predictions

Illustration: Ambika Castle

With the primary—and general—election still months away, we thought we’d chat up some local political pundits to get their big Campaign 2014 predictions. For all sorts of reasons (including their own credibility), most politicos usually avoid predicting winners and losers this early. And, as University of Hawaii-Manoa political science professor Colin Moore points out, it’s difficult for local political watchers to make accurate predictions because of the lack of frequent polling data.  So we asked them to make some wild predictions instead. Here’s what they came up with:

Who will be this election cycle’s gaffe machine?

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Rep. Faye Hanohano

“It’d be hard to think of anybody else than Gov. Abercrombie,” Moore says. “He’s a smart and passionate guy, but he does have a reputation for saying things he wishes he didn’t say. Perhaps that Los Angeles Times article is the most recent example.”

In an interview with the LA Times, Abercrombie questioned whether a deathbed letter from the late Sen. Daniel Inouye had been manufactured to pressure him into selecting U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. The governor has since apologized for his remarks.

Speaking of foot-in-mouth disease, Big Island state Rep. Faye Hanohano’s recent troubles with racially charged remarks prompted a large number of candidates to line up to replace her. Hawaii Pacific University communication professor John Hart offered her up as an example of someone paying a political price for gaffes.

“Undoubtedly, I think she’s now been enough of a thorn in the side of the party hierarchy that there does look like there’s a move to get her out,” Hart says.

Who does former Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s candidacy hurt the most?

Former Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona

This week, we welcome Hannemann (fresh from his defeat two years ago against Tulsi Gabbard and four years ago against Abercrombie) to the Hawaii governor’s race. Assuming Abercrombie makes it past his primary challenge, who stands to lose the most by the former Honolulu mayor’s candidacy? Abercrombie or Aiona?

“There’s this whole anti-Abercrombie vote, which in the primary will go to David Ige, but in the general will now be split by Aiona and Mufi,” Moore says. Prior to Hannemann’s entry, Moore says he thought Aiona could have possibly built a broad coalition of conservatives and anti-Abercrombie voters in order to defeat the governor. Not anymore.

“I think this makes it much less likely that Aiona is going to win. If I were working for the governor, I’d be celebrating this,” Moore says.

HPU’s Hart agrees, but adds that Hannemann could end up going the way of former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi during the waning years of his political career. “You don’t want to be Fasi, the guy who is always running.”

Also, Hannemann’s recent losses are too fresh, Hart says. “It would have been wiser, having lost two elections in a row by relatively big margins, for him to have sat this one out,” Hart says. “There’s that old joke, How can I miss you if you don’t go away?”

Who could pull off an upset victory?

Stanley Chang

Remember two years ago when Tulsi Gabbard delivered a surprise thrashing to Mufi Hannemann? Is there anyone this cycle positioned well enough to pull a Tulsi? City Councilman Stanley Chang, says Moore.

State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim and Rep. K. Mark Takai are generally seen as the top contenders to replace U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in Congress. But don’t count out Chang, Moore says.

“Chang has been raising money and he’s a really strong campaigner. He’s proven himself to be an effective candidate—he came from nowhere to win his city council seat.”

Most likely to avoid debates (at least early on)?

State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim

Kim is currently seen as the front-runner in the First Congressional District race. It would be smart political strategy for her to avoid debating her growing list of fellow candidates for a while, Moore says.

“Usually the front-runner stands to lose a lot from debating,” Moore says. “Perhaps you’ll see Donna Mercado Kim avoid debates—she doesn’t have any reason to participate in them and it’s probably only going to cost her.”

Biggest single issue to run on?

Same-Sex Marriage and GMOs

“The biggest single issue, especially among Republicans, is same-sex marriage discontent. The only question is, who is going to try to ride that train hard?” Hart says.

A few supporters of marriage equality, including state Sen. Clayton Hee, may see challengers who hope to use their votes against them.

But that’s not all. Moore predicts that anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) candidates are likely to run on the local level, especially in rural areas where residents oppose genetically-modified crops. Monsanto anyone?

“This is a huge issue, and the mainstream parts of the Democratic party don’t want to touch it. I’m sure in particular on the Neighbor Islands, you’re going to see this emerge as a big issue.”