[ politics Category ]
November 14, 2004

"Smear" or something else?

In today's Star-Bulletin, our intrepid host, Prophet Zarquon, has had published a column detailing the role of the blog in the local mayoral election. In it, yet again the role of Malia Zimmerman's blog writing is pulled up as the reason for Duke Bainum's narrow loss on Nov. 2.

While the HawaiiReporter.com stories may have swayed a few voters, I don't think that information got spread as widely as Internet fans would have liked. And I don't think enough people took the time to read the columns carefully to create the claimed effect of tipping the close election in favor of Mufi Hannemann.

An aside to HawaiiReporter.com: Traffic statistics on how many page views the Bainum stories got BEFORE the election would be really interesting. Contrast those numbers with Starbulletin.com traffic or HonoluluAdvertiser.com traffic on any daily story.

While the "Bainum smear" may have swayed some voters, I submit that there was another issue which snuck up and bit Duke in the 'okole!

Shortly after the election, I sent this email to a group of Hawaiians who were working feverishly on an initiative to repeal Act 38, the "Leasehold Conversion Law," which was enacted by the City Council over a decade ago.

Has anyone else noticed that in all the post-election analysis both by news media and the candidates themselves, no one has mentioned leasehold as the one differentiating issue between the two mayoral candidates? I find that AMAZING that they don't recognize that Mufi is mayor because he agreed to sign 53, while Duke promised veto. The candidates and media are so focused on money, smear and dirty campaigns that they don't realize that the Hawaiians probably tipped the scale!

Act 38 allowed owners of leasehold property to ask the city to forcibly take ownership of their property from the landowner and to turn it over to the former leasehold renter, who could then own their own home!

Act 53, to repeal Act 38, is currently circulating in the Council.

In the weeks before the election, many Hawaiians followed closely any pronouncement from any mayoral candidate concerning their position on the stripping of an owner's property for the benefit of the lessee.

One major piece was OHA's newspaper, Ka Wai Ola O Oha, (mailed to thousands of Hawaiians, worldwide) which published a series of position responses from both Duke and Mufi. One of the first questions on the list asked the candidates if they would sign or veto Act 53.

Mufi answered yes, Duke said no.

From that point on, Hawaiians everywhere started quietly asking each other, "Who you goin' vote for?" The information about the leasehold question and the candidates' responses was then proffered and discussed.

I know many a Hawaiian whose choice was sealed by this one question.

How about HawaiiStories.com readers? What do you think?

Posted by ZZType at November 14, 2004 09:55 AM


Posted by Ryan on November 14, 2004 5:45 PM:

D'oh! You caught it! I was prompted to write it in advance of the HCMC luncheon tomorrow... though there's no sidebar or anything mentioning it. I know what little point I had was badly buried. I'm a bit rusty at this "writing" thing.

As for the "leasehold" question, I agree it was a defining difference between the candidates, and hot enough of a topic to have swayed the election. Maybe it did.

But in a highly unscientific survey of coworkers and friends, some of whom I thought would know better, all the folks who changed their votes from Bainum to Hanneman cited "the thing with his wife." A couple of them didn't even know what "the thing" was, but they figured it was bad enough to make Bainum dangerous.

I suppose it depends on the circles you run in, but I have (for better or worse) a few proud conservatives in my universe, and I got a handful of e-mails about the Hawaii Reporter story. One was the text of the first article in its entirety (call the copyright cops!), a few were links, and one was nothing but a photo of Mrs. Bainum and some obnoxious "gold digger" commentary. Conversely, I don't recall a single e-mail -- even as a member of OHA and a few Hawaiian issues mailing lists -- urging me to vote {x} or {y} based on Act 53.

They talked quite a bit about the issue, to be sure, but if there was any overt endorsement in the mayoral race as a result, I missed it.

Frankly, I think Act 53 has a fair number of opponents as well as supporters, and can see that splitting voters more evenly. The only tangible pure anti-Bainum development was the Hawaii Reporter piece -- or, specifically, how it was used.

Posted by Sin on November 15, 2004 2:37 PM:

That's the question out there isn't it? Who the heck reads HawaiiReporter besides some legislators, their aides, some local journalists and Ian Lind? I just find it hard to believe that story smeared Duke enough for him to lose the election.

Posted by cheyne on November 15, 2004 3:18 PM:

I believe in the power of sensationalism and the power of suggestion, or at least that they exist, but if a well-crafted paragraph (or set of) swayed me against my original decision, I'd be very amazed.

The way I see it, if you've already made up your mind about who you're going to vote for (which is the proper, logical approach to decision-making), then one's external opinion should not matter.

It's not like the pursuasion-power of a movie-review, which you read to see if it's even worth it to go see it or not...you know you'll be voting and you've got one chance, so the research is far more in-depth.

Posted by RON on November 15, 2004 6:05 PM:

With a margin of victory as narrow a 1355 votes in the Honolulu mayor's race...it's difficult to say. If of that margin...just 678 voters voted for Bainum instead of Mufi...Bainum would have won by one vote. 678 votes represent only of a percent of the total votes casted, so statistically it's concievable that the smear-story did sway the election since we're not talking of something in the 20,000 vote margin of victory. Factor in the undecideds who voted for Fasi in the primary election, and it further militates that the smear story effected the outcome of the Honolulu mayor's race.

Posted by ZZ Type on November 15, 2004 7:09 PM:

I guess I could add one other bit of evidence in support of my position. Duke was winning in the early printouts, which was mostly East Oahu. Mufi didn't pull it out until they counted the Hawaiian-heavy West Oahu vote in the wee hours of the morning.

But in all of this, I certainly could be wrong. That's why I ask the question, "What do you think?"

Posted by MsS on November 18, 2004 2:23 PM:

Could I straddle the fence and suggest that Haneemannn's win was a combination of both factors?
Ozawa's essay regarding the power of blog was on target, as was yours, regarding the leasehold conversion. Bainum, in a post-election comment, stated that "voter turnout was higher than expected." So with both potential ship-of-states being equally lackluster, and Bainum's yacht weighed down by a tainted figurehead, the whispers of the audience most impassioned by both concerns propelled Hannemann to the lead.
(I'm inclined to think that the initial thrust of Zimmermann's blog overwhelmed mainstream media's reactive reports of the Bainum forces retreat from "outright lies" to "nothing but a smear" to "inheritance dispute." Bainum would have done better to immediately confront the issue rather than counter with Lind's non-factual rebuttal and retreat to his campaign website which had deliberately omitted twenty years of his spouse's post-high school life.)

Posted by ZZ Type on November 18, 2004 4:30 PM:

Ya know, MsS, you're probably right! Great post, man.

Posted by MsS on November 19, 2004 6:15 PM:

Aloha and mahalo back to you!I'm very thankful to you, Ozawa, and several others for broadcasting intelligence and kindness to readers like me. Your inquiry was one I felt akamai enough to contribute to.

Posted by Tiffany Deneaux on February 23, 2005 5:50 PM:

You may want to check out the ties between Malia Zimmerman and the politically motivated Small Business Hawaii community in Hawaii:


Seems Hawaii Reporter is right on top of funneling Talon News. Fine ethics.

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