Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, August 11, 1999

Cayetano’s endorsement
of Al Gore for president

WE can see a lot of the spaces being filled this summer for next year's political races.

For instance, it was reported but hardly noticed that Gov. Ben Cayetano has already thrown his support behind Vice President Al Gore.

Gore is as close as Democrats get to having an incumbent in the presidential field next year and he already is locking up major organized labor support.

Both those are attributes that Hawaii politicians like when considering presidential endorsements.

But Cayetano is taking a bit of a risk in coming out early, while other contenders, including Bill Bradley, are campaigning.

As titular head of the party, Cayetano's early endorsement probably will steer the party to selecting Gore. And Cayetano certainly has a large campaign debt to pay off after Gore came to Hawaii to speak up when Cayetano appeared on the verge of losing his re-election race last year.

What hasn't happened yet, however, is any sort of coordinated effort from Cayetano to use the presidential election to unify the Democrats.

Former Gov. John Waihee was another governor who early on endorsed Bill Clinton. If Waihee was a first-class friend of Bill, he was also nobody's fool.

Waihee used Clinton's first presidential campaign as his own preseason game.

He organized the state, made the lists, assigned the jobs, raised the money and generally got his campaign ready to win big.

Cayetano, of course, says he is out of politics in two years and is prohibited from another consecutive term as governor. But Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono is starting to build her own campaign for governor.

By following Cayetano's lead and improving on the organization, Hirono would be able to take a Gore endorsement and move it to her benefit in the governor's race two years later.

Her most likely Democratic opponent, Mayor Jeremy Harris, has yet to get involved in presidential politics, although he fully appreciates the value of early endorsements.

If Hirono doesn't go for the driver's seat on Gore's local wagon train, Harris would be smart to climb up.

On the Republican side, Texas Gov. George W. Bush already has captured the cream of the local GOP, with state Rep. Barbara Marumoto heading up the local campaign.

The question for the local GOP to answer is who will run against Harris next year.

THE minority Republicans seem to have the ticket filled for 2002, with Linda Lingle running for governor, but they have no top of the ticket for next year.

The race is ostensibly nonpartisan, but then nothing in Hawaii is nonpartisan, and candidates for both the mayor and City Council are judged as Republicans and Democrats, even though they run without party labels.

The most natural place to find a candidate for mayor would be the City Council. Because the entire Council is prohibited from running for re-election in 2002, one or two might want to take the challenge next year.

John Henry Felix is the only Republican on the Council but hasn't shown a great interest in running for mayor.

So filling that space will shape the political landscape for next year's election.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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