Carlisle's Fall: Incumbent Is 'Skunked' By Cayetano

Nathan Eagle/Honolulu Civil Beat

Saturday’s primary race for Honolulu mayor was historic.

No, former Gov. Ben Cayetano didn’t get more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a November runoff. He received 44 percent and will duke it out with former Honolulu managing director Kirk Caldwell, who received 29 percent of the vote.

The most notable aspect of Saturday’s primary was that the incumbent, Mayor Peter Carlisle, lost, with only 25 percent of the vote. This just doesn’t happen in Hawaii.

Incumbents usually have to die or resign to have their name removed from the office nameplate. The last Honolulu mayor to lose an election was in 2010 when Carlisle beat Caldwell, who had only been in office for a matter of months. Before that it was Eileen Anderson in 1985.

But Carlisle — who was also only a short-term incumbent — had to contend with Cayetano. When the former governor announced his candidacy, it made what seemed like a winnable race suddenly very challenging.

Without Cayetano, Carlisle would have been the heavyweight. He'd been the Honolulu prosecuting attorney for years, which gave him high name recognition along with whatever positives come with being the man who locks up bad guys.

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