Launching the “S.S. Campaign”, Hawaii Style

Since my article noting that it was one year out before the Primary Election, one will note that a number of candidates have filed, announced and have started to run for office. Right now, the action seems to be more in the Honolulu City Mayor and Council races, but going back there is some statewide races already called.

In many ways, a launch of a campaign is like the launch of an ocean-going ship. You prep the ship, get everything strapped down and water tight; you buy the champagne and banners. Then on the day of launch, break said bottle on the bow and watch the ship slip into the water.

And you hope, pray or chant to God that the ship don’t sink right after launch.

So going to campaigns, you have to know that when the announcement comes down in social media, or even the news, that a person is throwing in their name for an office, there has been a “boatload” of preparation up until that point. It starts months, or even years before in getting key supporters, money and establishing a campaign foundation to help amplify messages and create that “positive stickiness” in people’s mind about the candidate.

So let us pivot and look at how the launches of the various “S.S. Campaigns” have been so far.

Most recently, a gentlemen named Augusto Emery Tulba announced that he was going to run for the District 9 City Council seat for Honolulu in the 2020 election. More commonly known as local comedian and entertainer “Augie T”, his name recognition helped a great deal in the launch. In fact, in some ways, the momentum of goodwill of his name in the community allowed him to start his campaign with very little fanfare, but with a monster amount of impact.

Case to be made: positive name recognition is key to a clean, drama free launch without any fanfare or effort. Some politicians, it seems, do not value the goodwill factor of their name enough, and their launches sometimes are tantamount to a ship launching without a hull, going right down to the bottom of the ocean.

Let’s compare this campaign launch with one that happened a bit of time ago. Another gentlemen, State Senator Kaiali‘i Kahele, announced his entry into the race for the Congressional seat currently held by Tulsi Gabbard. “Kai” as he is colloquially known, is one that has some name recognition, and maybe some goodwill. So his campaign launch in January needed a little more “spark” if you will.

To get this, he announced his intention at a place, which is highly symbolic for politics in Hawaii – the Moʻoheau Bandstand in downtown Hilo. This is the place where the Democrats of Hawaii gather for day-before election rallies as well as other political announcements.  Furthermore, Kai went ahead to announce his intention to win a seat from someone that is now running for President of the United States.

Already the momentum of those two elements got the campaign going. It helped that, soon after, former Hawaiʻi Governors John Waiheʻe, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie announced their support of Kai’s campaign.

Case to be made: You might not have enough name goodwill to set your campaign afloat by itself, but it does help if you are talking in the zeitgeist and then get solid backing by political leaders, like Ex Governors.

As we go along, we shall see if these examples are copied, followed or discounted by others who are getting into the political realm.