Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Politicians dream
of recruiting
Cal Lee

The legendary coach is hot
property as a political prospect

By Pat Omandam

Cal Lee, the politician?

With the St. Louis School varsity head football coach stepping down from coaching duties next year, leaders of Hawaii's Democratic and Republican parties say they could use someone like him on their team when they hit the political gridiron in next year's state elections.

"I think if he is ever interested in running for politics or getting involved in public service, I definitely would welcome him to the Democratic Party," said state party Chairwoman Lorraine Akiba.

She said Lee has an understanding of Hawaii values and the issues facing its citizens.

"He obviously has leadership skills, he's got integrity and he's very dedicated," she said yesterday. "And he's been an upstanding member of our community for a long time."

Micah Kane, executive director of the Republican Party of Hawaii, said Lee's name has come up on many occasions in small circles of discussion as a potential candidate.

Kane said Lee has had a positive influence on St. Louis School and is the type of person the Hawaii GOP is looking for as it attempts to elect a governor and gain more seats in the Legislature in the 2002 elections.

The GOP has never talked to Lee about it, Kane stressed. "His name just came up purely in conversation," Kane said.

Lee laughed heartily yesterday when told about the political interest in him.

"Politics? Who knows? It's all open," he said. "You end up talking about a lot of things with a lot of people. But that is news to me."

Kane said, "We're looking for people who are in transition, who might have the flexibility to look for a different type of work. He falls into all those types of categories. If anything, it (his name) came up because of that," he said.

As coach of St. Louis for 20 years, he has brought the all-boys school 15 Prep Bowl or state title victories.

A 1964 Kalani High School graduate, Lee earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Willamette University in Oregon, where he was an NAIA First-Team All-American linebacker.

Kane said Lee's prowess in football and education can be translated into politics. For example, Lee has created a tremendous amount of opportunities for kids who might otherwise not have had any, and he knows how to raise community support.

"You want wedge breakers out there," Kane said.

Lee was philosophical about the future. "Let's be unrealistic. If the 49ers call about an assistant coach job, do I think about it? Sure. You think about anything that might come up."

Akiba, who took over as Democratic Party chairwoman from Walter Heen earlier this year, added she has not approached Lee to see if he wants to run for office, but said they are always looking for good people.

"We're always looking for good citizens and leaders in our community to run as Democrats because one of my goals, as new party chairman, is to provide more choices of good Democrats on our tickets for the voting public," she said.

Lee is not worried about his options. "The worst-case scenario is, I'm athletic director at St. Louis. And that's not such a bad thing."

Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon contributed o this report.

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