BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – At least 300 people crammed into Ben Cayetano’s new campaign headquarters on Sunday, February 12, to give their support for his Honolulu mayoral bid.
As Cayetano noted in brief remarks, his support comes from all parties and political philosophies. Democrats including Rep. Della Au Belatti, Sen. Clayton Hee and Council Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi; Republicans such as Sen. Sam Slom and many members of his party, and former Libertarian Party Head Tracy Ryan were among the people to lend their support. Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a long time friend of Cayetano, did not show, but Abercrombie’s wife, Dr. Nancie Caraway, did attend.
Many well-known opponents of the city’s Honolulu rail system, including Dr. Panos Prevedouros, University of Hawaii Professor Randall Roth, Dr. Michael Uechi, Dennis Callan and Honolulutraffic.com’s Cliff Slater also came to endorse the only candidate opposed to the city’s plan to construct a $5.3 billion elevated steel on steel rail project from Kapolei to Honolulu.
Cayetano thanked his three campaign chairs, which included former Senator and State Judge Rey Graulty, former City Council Chair and retired State Judge Walter Heen, and Designer Charlyn Honda Masini.
Cayetano introduced several people from the last three former mayoral cabinets who agreed to advise him on key city issues, such as infrastructure and financial management.
Lively and enthusiastic, Cayetano said he is running for Honolulu mayor to stop the rail from being built and to fix Honolulu’s dilapidated infrastructure.
He was thrilled a new Honolulu Star Advertiser poll documents public support for the rail project dropped dramatically since last year, and another released today shows him in the lead for Honolulu mayor.
Cayetano is running against former city managing director Kirk Caldwell and Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle.
“Ten years I’ve been retired, and I’m coming back because the city has some problems and I want to do something about it,” Cayetano said.
Kobayashi, city budget chair, said she likes Cayetano because he is “honest.” She said she served with Cayetano in the State Senate, and agrees with his campaign focus on the city budget and transportation and infrastructure issues.
Uechi, a medical doctor who co-chaired the Stop Rail Campaign in 2008, said Cayetano has “the power, the charisma and the impact to wipe out the other lightweights” in the mayor’s race.
Rep. Belatti, an independent House Democrat, said “I am supporting Gov. Ben for the future of the City & County of Honolulu. I want to see a better future, and I think he can deliver on that.”
Prevedouros, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2008 and 2010, but brought considerable attention to Oahu’s failing infrastructure, budget problems and the issues surrounding rail, is now an advisor to Cayetano on transportation and rail. Prevedouros said Cayetano, who served in office for 28 years and has never lost an election, has a very good chance of winning.
“Cayetano has the political experience that can put him on top,” Prevedouros said. “Cayetano is very fiscally responsible and has proven that in the past” and “is clearly anti rail and that is a project we don’t need.”
Prevedouros and Kobayashi said the city must spend at least $6 billion to fix Oahu’s aging infrastructure and cannot afford the $5.3 billion the current city administration plans to spend on rail.