Mufi's Last Chance?

Hannemann for Congress

He's raised the most money. He's got the most experience. His name recognition is sky high. Half a million people follow him on Twitter. And most polls show him in the lead, some by double digits.

He is a candidate who graduated from Iolani and Harvard and was a Fulbright Scholar — a candidate "who provided 36 years of public service" to the people of Hawaii, as a recent campaign ad put it.

So, why isn't Mufi Hannemann a lock to win the Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District?

Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor and Council member, may well pull off a win. His latest advertisement is milking his recent endorsement by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and The Maui News.

But Hannemann has been eclipsed by his closest rival, Honolulu City Council member Tulsi Gabbard, when it comes to recent fundraising reports. He's got less cash on hand than Gabbard and had to lend himself $150,000.

After polling initially above 50 percent, his numbers have dropped dramatically, according to a Civil Beat poll in June. No wonder the Gabbard campaign thinks it has the wind at its back.

Hannemann, 58, is still tantalizingly close to achieving an ambition he has had since at least 1986, when as a young man he made his first-ever run for office, a run for Congress — the 1st Congressional seat, actually.

Hannemann won the Democratic primary that year, lost the special election to fill Cec Heftel's seat (Neil Abercrombie won that race, allowing him to serve for just a few months) and lost the general to Republican Pat Saiki. Four years later, he lost a race for the 2nd District to Patsy Mink.

If he can get past Gabbard and four other Democrats on Aug. 11, however, Hannemann seems a shoo-in for the Nov. 6 general election, as the two Republicans running in the primary are unknown candidates who have yet to report raising any contributions. Any money from national Republicans and PACs is likely to be thrown toward Charles Djou in his effort to claim back his seat from U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

Hannemann would likely be easily re-elected to the House, too (short-termer Djou is the only congressional incumbent from Hawaii to lose re-election), and be a frontrunner someday to replace Daniel K. Inouye in the U.S. Senate.

But if he loses, Hannemann risks being branded a three-time loser for Congress just two years after a crushing defeat to Abercrombie in the race for governor.

Is this Mufi's last chance?

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