Former Hawaiʻi News Now general manager Rick Blangiardi announced Wednesday he is running for mayor of the City and County of Honolulu. He enters an already crowded mayoral race.
With Blangiardi, there are a total of seven candidates running for Honolulu mayor. They include former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, former Hawaiʻi High School Athletics Association executive director Keith Amemiya, and councilmember Kymberly Pine.
Former state Sen. John Carroll, former Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Marissa Kerns, and real estate broker Choon James are also in the running.
The next mayor will succeed Kirk Caldwell, who will reach his term limit at the end of this year.
During a press conference at Stadium Park, Blangiardi said there is a lot at stake for Honolulu's future in the race.
"We're all painfully aware of the big issues facing our own home and families," he said. "The high cost of living and a lack of affordable housing. The over-budget and behind-schedule rail project. The complex issue of homelessness. The growing concerns over neighborhood crime. Our infrastructure. And a lack of facilities and resources available for our elder citizens.
"None of these big issues facing the next mayor have an easy solution."
Former Republican governor Linda Lingle and former Democratic governor Ben Cayetano's wife, Vicky Cayetano, were in attendance.
Blangiardi named several local business leaders as part of his campaign team. Art Ushijima, former CEO of The Queen's Health Systems, will act as campaign chair. Mike Gold, former CEO of HMSA, is Blangiardi's campaign treasurer. Mark Polivka, president and CEO of Monarch Insurance, is the campaign's finance chair.
"Certainly, a lot of people in the business community are interested in Rick," said John Hart, a professor at Hawaiʻi Pacific University. "He's been around, but not in political office."
Hart says it's still too early to determine a frontrunner, and many factors can contribure to the race in the coming months. He noted the current candidate pool is diverse in experience and backgrounds.
"At this point, you pay attention to all of them," Hart said. "Voters will be given the opportunity to choose fresh faces. They'll be given the opportunity to choose someone with a lot of governmental experience. It's certainly a wide variety of candidates, and I think that's a good thing."
Hart says he will be looking at the candidates' fundraising, endorsements and the team surrounding the candidates in the coming months.
The deadline for candidates to file papers to run for mayor is June 2.