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October 30, 2014

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Let the Carolyn coronation begin

Is there really a need to hold the mayoral election now? Couldn’t Oscar just appoint Carolyn and we can save a lot of money on this fait accompli election? Surely, that would be easier.

But I digress.

Carolyn Goodman’s revelation this morning that she is running for her husband’s seat – the public story put out through my pal Steve Sebelius, who was first to reach her after I Flashed she was running – has essentially reshuffled the race. But while Carolyn has an ace in the hole in Oscar, this is not quite a stacked deck in her favor. We are not a South American country where the dictator hands the country to his wife – or are we?

Some will say Carolyn has a huge advantage because of her last name and her reservoir of community goodwill. But unless she scares the others out – and I see no sign of that yet – she will still have to run a campaign, identify her voters and be one of the top two in the primary in April (or less likely, get 50 percent plus one).

Right now, Larry Brown, who talked to the mayor last night and nary a word about Carolyn, and Steve Ross, who has been Goodman’s loyal council soldier, know how the Americans in Hawaii felt on Dec. 7, 1941. They are stunned and, perhaps, devastated. But both sent word they will stay in the race, although there is still time to pull out.

This morning, as Giunchigliani was announcing her candidacy to an enthusiastic meeting of Hispanics in Politics, Oscar was telling Ross that his wife was running to block Giunchigliani, according to a source close to Ross, and Carolyn was calling Giunchigliani and leaving a message about how she had always voted for her and loved her but could not pass up the opportunity to run for mayor, according to a source close to Giunchigliani.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Everyone is putting a brave face on this, but Carolyn Goodman’s entrance harms every other candidate. The question is: How badly?

All three of the elected official candidates – and none of the others matter, really – have supporters in the field and in the donor community. (Is Jim Hammer still having that mega-event for Larry Brown this week that is expected to bring in a few hundred thousand?)

Giunchigliani probably has the most loyal followers, cultivated from years in the trenches and has many IOUs. You could tell that at the HIP meeting this morning. Some might argue another high-profile woman really hurts her the most, but Carolyn Goodman does not tap into the same grass-roots constituencies. No one in politics is tougher than Giunchigliani, either, and her husband, Gary Gray, is as cutthroat as they come. I am also sure Giunchigliani is even more energized by hearing Oscar told Ross that Carolyn wanted to block her. She is not going away.

As for Brown, he was anointed by some people who are about to feel very uncomfortable, many of them on that Hammer fundraising invite. Donors are going to have to hedge their bets for many reasons, and I wonder how many will wait to see what happens in the primary. Brown, outsides of his first council race, has never had to work hard in a campaign, so this will be a real test for him. He must feel quite a sense of betrayal today, but he either gets over that and stays in or he might as well withdraw. Maybe he will buy that Carolyn woke up this morning and decided to run, so that’s why Oscar didn’t tell him last night.

Ross may be the most hurt by Carolyn Goodman’s entrance, and while one of his agents said he is staying in, he has a very foggy path to victory. He still has labor supporters and an LDS base – and I suppose that could be substantial in a low-turnout race – but Carolyn’s presence will drive up turnout now.

Many will say this is over before it starts. While that is natural, it’s not that simple, especially in an election where a lot of informed voters will already have adhered to another candidate, where Carolyn may find Oscar’s popularity is not easily transferable and some will see Carolyn as Oscar II and not be thrilled.

A lot more to be said in the coming days but I close this post to remark on the personal dynamics in the consultant world here, which are, well, remarkable. To wit:

Bradley Mayer, conscripted to run Carolyn’s campaign, is a protégé of Jim Ferrence, who is helming Larry Brown’s campaign but has been near or at the helm of Oscar’s campaigns. Imagine how Ferrence feels today – the Pearl Harbor metaphor is apt here, too.

And don’t forget Gary Gray used to run Ross’ campaigns before they parted ways, and now is running against him. The inside knowledge the consultants have of each other’s and the candidate’s weaknesses also could play a role in the coming campaign – or coronation – whichever it turns out to be.

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