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Friday, March 3, 2000

Peters may run
for elected office

The embattled former
Bishop Estate trustee was
once House speaker

By Rick Daysog


Henry Peters, who resigned under fire as a $1 million-a-year trustee of the Kamehameha Schools, is considering running for office.

Peters, 59, who served as state House speaker between 1981 and 1987 but whose role at the Kamehameha Schools has come under heavy criticism, said many supporters in his Leeward Oahu district recently have asked him to return to elected office.

"I'm not going to close off that option," Peters said. "There's a lot of experience in this body."

Peters, a Maili resident, would not say whether he would consider a run for the state House or Senate seats in his district. The House seat is occupied by Rep. Michael Kahikina, who is up for re-election in November. The Senate position is occupied by attorney Colleen Hanabusa, who does not have to run for re-election until 2002.

Peters has until July 25 to file nomination papers with the lieutenant governor's office if he plans to run for office in this November's elections.

Peters said he was angry with Gov. Ben Cayetano's plan to remove all but one trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last week that OHA's elections were illegal.

Cayetano and OHA have since agreed to seek guidance on the matter from the state Supreme Court, but Peters said the governor's initial response was insensitive to the Hawaiian community.

Peters and Cayetano have been frequent sparring mates during the three-year Kamehameha Schools controversy, which led to Peters' resignation from the estate in December and a grand jury indictment on criminal theft charges. Circuit Judge Michael Town has since thrown out Peters' indictment but the state is appealing.

Peters believes the state attorney general's investigation was part of a politically motivated plot to re-elect Cayetano, who narrowly defeated former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle in 1998.

The attorney general's office has denied the charges, citing recent probate court rulings that Peters squandered millions of dollars of trust assets, took excessive pay and brought harm to the estate's beneficiaries.

"Nothing would give me more pleasure than running against him," Peters said.

Walter Heen, Democratic party chairman and a leading critic of the former trustees of the Kamehameha Schools, said he is not surprised that Peters is considering running for office given his recent criticisms of the state investigation.

Heen, a retired state appellate judge, said he believes that Peters is electable in his old district given his popularity in the local Hawaiian community.

"He's taken a beating in certain circles, but down in the Waianae area, he is still a champion," Heen said.

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