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Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

What makes Frank
Fasi keep running

IN 1994 Frank Fasi was the mayor of Honolulu. He wanted to be governor, and, as he had done three times before, declared his candidacy.

But to run in 1994, while mayor, Fasi had to resign. The city was left in the hands of Jeremy Harris, who had been managing director for nearly a decade. Harris would run for mayor, Fasi would run for governor and the two would continue to lead the state.

But now Fasi says he made a mistake.

Asked at a news conference this week, Fasi admitted he should not have run for governor six years ago.

"If you had it to do over again, would you have resigned and run for governor?" he was asked.

"I don't think so. Maybe I made a mistake there," Fasi replied.

Today Fasi, always a maverick, suffers the pain of being an outsider in his own political landscape.

The campaigns funded with donations from people and companies involved in city business are gone. His campaign this year lists an outstanding 1997 loan from himself of $594,782 as the major source of income.

"Money is hard to come by. When you are out, you are out. But there is no use in crying over it," he said.

It wasn't money but perfect timing -- enemies and friends alike always agreed -- that Fasi had in his years of political battles, which started in 1948 with races for the constitutional convention.

Fasi was elected mayor in 1968, '72, '76, '84, '88 and '92. He served 22 years, longer than anyone else in the history of Hawaii. During that time he perfected the game of politics. Fasi knew what called for a bombshell announcement, what issue needed only a tap and what could be safely ignored.

But in 1994 his timing left him and he jumped from the security of City Hall for a chance to start his own party (the Best Party) and then run against Lt. Gov. Ben Cayetano and former U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki. Fasi won second place, which in politics doesn't count.

"You either believe in what you believe in or you don't," he says now.

FOR political veterans, the election season wouldn't be the same without Fasi running for either governor or mayor. So his campaign this year was expected.

But Fasi celebrated his 80th birthday Sunday and, for the first time in decades, a recent political poll showed that he had less than universal name recognition. Seven percent of the voters say they never heard of Frank Fasi.

What makes Fasi run today is that misjudged decision six years ago to leave the city and look to Harris for support in the race for governor.

Fasi ran against Harris in '96 and is back after him this year. Much of his time is devoted to attacking Harris for not supporting his race for governor.

Fasi claims that if Harris had endorsed him for governor in 1994, as Fasi says Harris promised, Fasi would not feel betrayed.

Harris has said he was running in a nonpartisan contest and was remaining neutral, while Fasi was running as the supporter of a political party.

If Fasi had stayed in office in 1994, he would have likely won re-election as mayor in 1996 and then would have had enough campaign funds to wage a strong race for governor in 1998. As it turned out, Fasi ran two years ago and was soundly trounced by Linda Lingle in the GOP primary.

Today Fasi is running third in the polls and saving his last-minute money for a half-hour television special.

"I'm a Marine and I fight to win," he says.

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

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