Friday, August 20, 1999

will back Harris
as mayor

The governor makes no
other endorsements and says he will
not again pursue elected office

By Pat Omandam


Gov. Ben Cayetano says he has no plans to run for further office, but he will endorse Jeremy Harris for re-election -- if the mayor runs again.

"I will support him," Cayetano said. "I will work hard for him. He worked hard for me. That's the kind of person I am."

The governor said he would not seek any further office after his second gubernatorial term expires in December 2002. And he ruled out any run for a U.S. Senate seat or a position in Vice President Al Gore's administration if Gore is elected president next year.

At a Star-Bulletin editorial board meeting at the governor's office, Cayetano said yesterday he intends to support Harris in next year's nonpartisan mayoral elections. He praised Harris -- once considered a challenger to Cayetano in last year's Democratic primary for governor -- as a very able administrator.

Cayetano believes Harris realized last year it would have been very difficult for him to get past Cayetano in the Democratic primary, and that "revelation" led Harris to openly back his second term as governor. Harris has not said what his plans are next year. There is speculation he will run again for mayor in the year 2000 and then run for governor in 2002.

The governor did not endorse anyone else yesterday, saying his support brings in some votes but that people in the Democratic Party are just as likely to vote their own minds.

Asked if he would run for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004 if Daniel K. Inouye retires, the governor said that after 28 years he has had his fill of elected office.

Cayetano said he doesn't want to go back into the legislative arena having served as governor. Also, any freshman senator from Hawaii would not have the influence that Inouye has built over his three decades in office. It will be up to the younger generation to field candidates who can build that kind of support in the U.S. Senate and in Congress, he said.

Instead, the man who has never lost an election says he wants to spend time with his wife and family, and become a businessman.

"I would have been in office 28 years, and every year I've given it my all. It has taken a little bit of a toll on me and my family. But that's about it. I'll call it a day."

The governor began yesterday's meeting with an overview of the state financial picture. He said he is proud his administration has been able to build a two-year general fund surplus of $189 million this fiscal year from a deficit of more than $700 million five years ago.

Cayetano is optimistic that $2 billion in tax cuts over the next seven years will spur economic growth that will translate into more state revenue. He said that money is needed because the general fund surplus is projected to become a deficit in three years if no other sources of revenue are found to offset the tax cuts.

Already there are signs small business is picking up locally, while the Asian economy is also recovering, he said.

Still, the governor said he needs new revenues to pay for programs he plans to introduce next year. One involves legislation that will require first-time, nonviolent offenders of drug-related crimes to enter drug treatment facilities rather than be immediately sentenced to jail.

The idea is based on a 1996 Arizona law that so far has a success rate of more than 70 percent. The move would help alleviate overcrowding in prisons, he said.

"Dealing with the drug problem is a tremendous challenge. The old way of just throwing people in jail, I don't think it works. It doesn't work very efficiently," Cayetano said.

"We're trying to get a handle on how much money we do need. And we may start on a small basis, but we plan to do it next year."

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