Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Handicapping the Council District 4 Pick

The City Council's Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee last week moved out six candidates as "finalists" to hold the Council District 4 seat warm until January.

The eight Council members will take a final vote shortly after 10 a.m. and the new member will play a key role in determining what will happen during a final vote of the $1.82 billion operating budget later in the meeting.

Let's first dispense with the 20 other folks presumably still in the running. There are some very knowledgeable people among them who would do a solid job and bring a fresh perspective to the council such as Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board Chairman Greg Knudsen and "bike mom" Natalie Iwasa.

But here are the realities of the situation. Last week's meeting lasted less than three hours when many expected it to go much longer.

That's because only six of the 26 candidates (27 if you include Marsha Joyner, who asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration) were asked questions by their potential Council colleagues. And only those six became finalists.

Like it or not (and I'm not sure where I stand), there was an efficiency to the process. I'm guessing it was fostered by the committee's chairman, Todd Apo, who also happens to be the council chair.

That said, here are my educated odds:

Jonathan Lai, 3-2: Two weeks ago, no one had heard of him. But Djou has publically recommended him (even on national TV!)and privately lobbied his colleagues for him. It's clear Lai's in line politically with now-Congressman Charles. Keep in mind also that Apo, the council chair, is close to Djou. So it was really no surprise when Apo called Lai's name first "out of respect" for his former colleague.

It's his name on the resolution coming to the floor. So any Council member wanting someone one else will need to stave off a vote for Lai and try to force a vote on that other person first. Lai's also stressed he doesn't want to rock the boat, and Council members certainly have enough differences going into the last seven months of the term.

Lee Donohue, 3-1: The former police chief is certainly the most widely known of the candidates. And he is said to have the backing of some powerful friends at city hall. This would also be a politically safe pick since few would fault them for choosing a former chief with few blemishes on his record. I'm getting mixed signals about his future. This could be a nice feather in his cap following decades at HPD. But I've also heard speculation he might use this as a springboard for other political office.

Lori Wingard, 7-2: Djou's former chief of staff, knows the district well and knows the subtleties of the position better than the other candidates. Wingard also knows .well the roles different people play both on the second and third floor of Honolulu Hale. But she and Djou had a falling out. And she's not ruled out a run for the office on her own this fall, which some Council have stated as a preference for the temp pick.

Donna Ikeda, 8-1: Current Board of Education member and former East Honolulu state senator. She has some cred, but Council members might worry about blow-back for pulling out a sitting BOE member during the last six months of her term.

Brian Yamane and Carl Takamura. 15-1: Neither have been in elected office for a number of years and would appear to be longshots. They may have been put into the finals list just out of respect for their former positions, or possibly as compromise picks in case Council members can't agree on any of the others.

Here's my story from last Friday's Advertiser on the last Exec Affairs Committee meeting: http://bit.ly/bJUEAh

I'll be live-blogging this tomorrow for those of you who can't be there live or watch it on Channel 54.

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