Heavy turnout pushed Hannemann to victory

Honolulu Advertiser
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Honolulu mayor-elect Mufi Hannemann shook hands early yesterday morning with every one of the supporters crowding his campaign headquarters before he went home to await the final vote tally.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

After his rally ended yesterday morning at Dole Cannery, Mufi Hannemann, his shirt stained with sweat, stayed behind to help campaign workers rearrange chairs. Hannemann credits his volunteers for helping to build momentum for his campaign.
Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann, with his wife, Gail, said he would reach out to the opposition. “I want to be a leader who unites, rather than divides.”
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Duke Bainum, who had been favored to win the mayoral race, said a negative rumor spread via the Internet “left a cloud over our island.”
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann, shown on his way to a press conference yesterday, said he remained committed to stopping Mayor Jeremy Harris’ project to drive piles into the beach to shore up the Waikiki Natatorium.
Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Mufi Hannemann’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over Duke Bainum triggered jubilation, sighs of relief, and anguished post-mortems among the candidates and their supporters a day after the polls closed.

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He said he remained committed to stopping Harris’ plan to shore up the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. He said he favors creating an open beach that preserves the Natatorium’s distinctive archway.

Mufi Hannemann, shown on his way to a press conference yesterday, said he remained committed to stopping Mayor Jeremy Harris’ project to drive piles into the beach to shore up the Waikiki Natatorium.

Both campaigns agreed yesterday that the presidential race greatly increased voter turnout, which benefited Hannemann. Both candidates also said O’ahu must not remain divided over the mayor’s race, which Hannemann won by just 1,355 votes.

Hannemann said he believed his vow to bring strong and experienced leadership to City Hall had made a big impact on voters, and that hard work by committed volunteers created unstoppable momentum.

“They never gave up, they were never willing to give up the fight,” Hannemann said. “It was truly a situation where I found great energy and enthusiasm, and I fed on that type of spirit, and that’s what I believe pulled us through in the end.”

But Bainum said he believed that allegations spread over the Internet about an inheritance dispute that involved his wife, Jennifer, had taken a heavy toll.

“This election has left a cloud over our island,” Bainum said.

He called the reports “vicious attacks” but stressed that he was not directly accusing Hannemann of starting them. He called the spread of the allegations a deliberate smear, however, and said that’s a bad sign for Hawai’i politics.

“You’ve got to ask yourself what kind of qualified person is going to want to put themselves and their family through this,” he said. “The Internet and good-old bad whispering campaigns are not good for this island. They’re not good for Hawai’i. … When these smear campaigns occur, and if they work, and if they’re a factor, that just motivates people to use them again and again.”

Innuendos denounced

Hannemann said he had nothing to do with the allegations, but that he believed Bainum supporters had unfairly tried to blame him for spreading them.

“I know there was an organized effort on their part to pin it on my campaign,” he said.

Hannemann had trailed Bainum in the primary election by nearly 6,000 votes, and was behind in polls published weeks before Tuesday’s election.

Bainum adviser Andy Winer said it was clear that the increase in voter turnout helped Hannemann. But the allegations about Bainum’s wife, and other damaging information spread anonymously, also played a significant role, he said.

“This campaign, in my view, was probably one of the most negative and vicious campaigns that this state has ever seen,” he said. “It was more than just one factor, and I think the people of Honolulu have got to understand that if they’re going to be affected by these kinds of innuendo and attacks, they’re going to be fed up with these kinds of campaigns time and time again.”

Brooms backfired

Mayor Jeremy Harris said Bainum may have shot himself in the foot with his own negative campaigning, however.

Harris, who beat Hannemann in the 2000 election and did not publicly support either candidate this time, said advertisements in which Bainum and supporters toted brooms and pledged to sweep out City Hall had backfired with many people he knew.

“I think thousands of city employees resented it greatly, and certainly all my appointees greatly resented it,” Harris said. “It was opportunistic politics.”

Negativity ignored

Peter Pulido, an 18-year-old mechanic from Mililani said negative tactics, including e-mail messages on Bainum’s wife, did not play into his decision to support Hannemann.

“I heard something about that Internet thing,” Pulido said. “But (Bainum) was the one running for mayor — not his wife.”

Pulido cited Hannemann’s performance in the debate as among the factors that attracted his vote.

“I think he just had better opinions,” Pulido. “He’s a smart person who will do a good job.”

Robert Rivera, a 51-year-old entrepreneur from Kailua, said Hannemann comes across as honest. “He seems to be sincere, and that appeals to me,” Rivera said.

Money may have hurt

Bainum pumped more than $2.2 million of his personal money into his campaign, and spent nearly twice as much as Hannemann. Harris said Bainum’s money probably helped him early in the race but may have hurt him later.

“I don’t think anyone wants to feel like the mayor’s office is for sale,” Harris said. “I think while it helped him initially overwhelm the airwaves with TV ads and build up huge name recognition in the primary (election), I think ultimately the more ads he ran, it was a case of diminishing returns and actually when people would see an ad, they would simply think of how much of a personal fortune was being invested in the race.”

And endorsements of Hannemann by some high-profile Republicans probably eroded Bainum’s support in key areas, such as East Honolulu, Harris said.

Debbie Mena, a 50-year-old elementary school employee, said familiarity with candidate records accounted for her vote.

“I voted for Duke,” she said. “I’ve already seen what Mufi could do, and I wasn’t impressed.”

Ready to reach out

Hannemann said he wanted to make it clear that he does not consider Bainum supporters his enemies.

“I believe it behooves me to reach out to them, and I will,” he said. “I want to be a leader who unites, rather than divides. During the course of the campaign, Duke and I stressed many of the same things. In fact, sometimes people thought we were tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee.”

He said he would form a blue-ribbon committee to help screen potential cabinet appointees, and had begun working with Harris to plan the transition.

Hannemann said one of his first priorities will be to improve the way the city picks up bulky items that residents throw away. The job is currently split between two city departments, and Hannemann said that leaves some neighborhoods poorly served.

He said he remained committed to stopping Harris’ plan to shore up the crumbling Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. He said he favors creating an open beach that preserves the Natatorium’s distinctive archway.

Harris said he was committed to ensuring a smooth transition, despite their differences over such issues.

“We look forward to working with the mayor-elect and his new team as he puts it together to have a smooth transition so that the public and public services don’t suffer in any way,” he said.

Staff writer Karen Blakeman contributed to this report. Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com, or 525-8070.