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    HomePoliticsOn Politics: Assessing mayor’s reelection chances amid pay raise controversy, rail opening

    On Politics: Assessing mayor’s reelection chances amid pay raise controversy, rail opening

    Next year will be a major election year for Hawaii. Honolulu will have a chance to register its first formal opinion on Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi. It is also a presidential election year, which historically increases voter turnout.

    This comes with a caution that local political leaders and voting officials, outside of giving voters a lottery ticket and a ZipPac, are already doing everything they can to make voting as simple as possible. The state mails all registered voters a ballot and you are automatically registered to vote when you get a driver’s license. In the 2012 general election, turnout was almost 62% and two years ago it was nearly 48%, according to state election tallies, so Hawaii is simply not a state that votes.

    For those who do vote and are Honolulu residents, the big question is whether or not to give Blangiardi a second term.

    Honolulu mayor is the first elected public office Blangiardi has ever won, and so far, there are no major challengers wanting to take the title away from him.

    Blangiardi just presided over the opening of a controversial and somewhat divisive new rail system. With rail supporters and detractors almost evenly split, how you line up for or against rail isn’t going to win or lose your election.

    Perhaps the biggest Honolulu political issue has been the recent city action giving Council members a 64% pay raise.

    Council’s salaries were boosted to $113,304, up from $68,904, and the Council chair’s pay to $123,288 from $76,968. Council members would have had to actively vote to stop the pending raise from going forward, but by doing nothing they are now getting the bigger salary recommended by a public salary commission.

    That’s the sort of easy-to-understand political issue that can inflame the most “why bother” voters. But whether the outrage can stay boiling until the November 2024 election is an open question.

    At 76 years old, Blangiardi is still looking for challenges, not an easy slip into retirement.

    The “64% pay raise” members of the City Council won’t be politically viable or be able to mount any serious challenge.

    If Blangiardi is to attract a significant opponent, it would have to be from the private sector. After a career in broadcasting, Blangiardi announced his retirement in January 2020, and a month later declared for mayor. His candidacy enjoyed bipartisan support with endorsements by former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly and the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, plus Colleen Hanabusa, chairwoman of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board and a former U.S. congresswoman. Although nothing is sure in politics, the support is not likely to change.

    If Honolulu’s mayor goes into next year’s campaign wearing a smile, you know why.


    Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays. Reach him at 808onpolitics@gmail.com.


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