Former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano casts a long shadow.
Ben Cayetano casts a long shadow.
Former Hawaii Governor Ben Cayetano casts a long shadow.
Ben Cayetano casts a long shadow.

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Former Gov. Benjamin Cayetano will run for Honolulu mayor in 2012.

Cayetano, a Democrat, will formerly announce his plans to run in the non-partisan city election at a press conference on Thursday. Today he told Hawaii Reporter he is in the process of securing his headquarters and finalizing his campaign team.

In what is expected to be an expensive and contentious race, Cayetano will take on Mayor Peter Carlisle and former City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell.

Carlisle, the former city prosecutor, won a special election in 2010 to replace then Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Caldwell was Hannemann’s managing director, and will run again for the mayoral seat after losing to Carlisle in 2010.

With 28 years in Hawaii government, in the state House, Senate, lieutenant governor and governor’s office, Cayetano left local politics in 2002 and worked on authoring his autobiography, which became a local best seller.

He wasn’t looking to get back into politics – in fact he told Hawaii Reporter he was hoping someone else would step forward – but he made the decision to run for mayor because he believes he can save Honolulu from ruin.

He is referring to Carlisle’s plan, which Caldwell supports, to build a $5.3 billion 20-mile heavy elevated steel wheel on steel rail system from Kapolei to Honolulu.

Cayetano, a long time outspoken critic of the project and is one of seven plaintiffs in a controversial federal lawsuit aiming to stop the construction.

The lawsuit, filed by Cayetano, HonoluluTraffic.com founder Cliff Slater, retired Judge Walter Heen, University of Hawaii Law Professor Randal Roth, Small Business Hawaii Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, Dr. Michael Uechi and Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, claims the city administration and federal government did not consider more environmentally friend and cost effective traffic solutions before selecting heavy rail as the best choice.

Cayetano maintains there are other maintenance projects that need to be completed to keep Oahu’s infrastructure from dilapidating further, such as sewer and water main upgrades, and road repairs.

In opposing the project, Cayetano is taking on Hawaii’s all Democratic Congressional delegation, many establishment politicians and private construction unions.

The public is sharply divided over the rail project, which continues to escalate in price and will be an imposing structure along Honolulu’s waterfront and historic districts.

But through the lawsuit, Cayetano has the support of several prominent community groups, including The Outdoor Circle, The League of Women Voters, Small Business Hawaii , HonoluluTraffic.com and Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, which are all opposing the project. The majority of Oahu’s Republicans are also opposed to rail and expected to vote for Cayetano for that reason.

HonoluluTraffic.com’s Cliff Slater said: “It would be astonishing to have a Mayor who was blunt, frank, honest, and up front about what he was doing. After the last 20-odd years, it would take some getting used to.”

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