Saturday, November 10, 2001

Hirono move
shakes 2 races

Her entry into the mayor's race
changes the complexion of
state and city politics

Hirono's decision could make Bunda
new lieutenant governor

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono said she is entering the race for Honolulu Hale's top seat next year because she feels a void in city government, not because she was trailing Mayor Jeremy Harris in the quest for governor.

But Harris, who had expected to be Hirono's chief opponent in the Democratic primary in fall 2002, said he believes she saw the writing on the wall and decided to move on.

"The times call for leadership with broad experience you can trust," Hirono said yesterday at a press conference at the Plaza Club. "Over the past 20 years, I have worked with our legislators, our Congressional delegation. I have worked with people from all walks of life."

With that, the 54-year-old Hirono abandoned her longtime plans to run for governor and entered what now shapes up to be a five-person race for the mayor's office, which will be vacated when Harris resigns to run for governor in next year's election.

Rumors had persisted for weeks that she would switch races, but Hirono refused to discuss the issue until yesterday.

Even 10 hours after the announcement, the campaign office answering machine still greeted callers with "Thank you for calling the headquarters for the Friends of Mazie K. Hirono for Governor."

Her announcement "has nothing to do with my believing or feeling that I could not win for governor," Hirono said. "I am making a decision right now to go forward to become the mayor of this great city."

She said that since Sept. 11, people have approached her about running for mayor "because what we really need are leaders who can bring the people together."

Hirono refused to answer directly the question of whether her own polls showed her ahead or behind in the race for governor. "The polls showed that I could have won as governor," she said.

Harris said his own poll showed him 23 percentage points ahead of Hirono.

"I think Mazie probably wants to continue to serve and she's looking for the place to do that," Harris said. "With all due respect, I think she probably also was looking at the polls in the governor's race and realized that it probably was not in the cards" for her to win.

Hirono said she does not view her lack of experience on the city level a weakness as she goes up against four opponents who have all served no less than eight years at the municipal level: Councilman Duke Bainum, former Mayor Frank Fasi, former Councilman Mufi Hannemann and former Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.

"This has been my home. I've gone to public schools here. I know Oahu," Hirono said.

When asked if she had a position on any specific city-related issue that would distinguish her from the field, she responded, "Those kinds of issues we'll be discussing with you as the campaign goes on."

Asked what she thought was the most important issue facing the city, Hirono said, "People are concerned about the economy, their jobs, safety."

Bainum spokesman Robert Klein said "city experience ... is extremely important in this time."

Klein noted that there will be a dearth of elected leaders with municipal experience since only two of the current nine Council members are eligible for re-election next year.

"Experience in the city helps you run the city," said Harris, who served as Fasi's managing director for several years before becoming mayor.

The other candidates for mayor said they welcomed Hirono as another choice for voters.

They also said they did not expect to change their strategies as a result of her announcement.

"My campaign is for the office of mayor; I don't campaign against other candidates," Kaneshiro said. "The important issue is independent leadership, experience, ability and skill."

Hannemann said he was surprised by Hirono's announcement, "having known how much she wanted to be governor for the last eight years."

He said he will continue to focus on the issue of economic development. Hannemann spoke to reporters yesterday as he was given an endorsement by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers. The union endorsed Harris two years ago.

Fasi said he believes his chances of winning improved with Hirono's entry.

"The more people that run, the odds go down on a loss and come up on a win," he said.

Hirono, as the only woman who has announced intentions to run for mayor, said she hopes women will support her. "What I will be focusing on is making sure that the women of the city and county of Honolulu know that I have a commitment to families."

Harris said Hirono's departure from the gubernatorial battle will "make the primary an easier contest" and will allow him to save campaign finances for a run against likely Republican challenger Linda Lingle.

"Obviously, that's key," he said. "The general election is going to be the major race, and the fewer resources that have to get expended during the primary, the more will be available for the general election."

Harris said he hopes Democratic supporters of Hirono's gubernatorial run will now turn to him as the best candidate for toppling Lingle next year.

But state Rep. Ed Case said he expects to benefit most from Hirono's departure because he believes they both appeal to constituents concerned with issues such as campaign finance reform and women's rights.

An exploratory committee for longtime GOP leader D.G. "Andy" Anderson, who could run as a Democrat, said in a release that they "wish her the best in the mayoral race."

Republican Party spokesman Micah Kane said Lingle's gubernatorial strategy has not changed.

"What we're certain of is, Linda Lingle will be on the ballot in 2002 -- for governor."

Hirono’s decision could make
Bunda new lieutenant governor

By Richard Borreca

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono's change of plans could wind up making Sen. Robert Bunda lieutenant governor and Sen. Colleen Hanabusa Senate president.

When Hirono announced that she was running for mayor, her candidacy fell under the resign-to-run clause in the state Constitution.

There are questions about when exactly she will have to formally resign, but at least by the candidate-filing deadline on July 23.

At that time she will have to resign, and the office of lieutenant governor will be vacant. It is expected that will trigger the state's line-of-succession law, which provides for the president of the Senate to become lieutenant governor. That person would have to resign the Senate office and become lieutenant governor.

The next person in line to become Senate president is the vice president.

Barring a change in the leadership of the Senate, that would mean Hanabusa (D, Waianae) would become Senate president. But no one is sure they want the temporary promotion that would last from July 23 to the inauguration Dec. 4.

Hirono said she is asking the attorney general for guidance on the lines of succession and transition.

There are questions.

If Bunda were lieutenant governor from July 23 until Dec. 4 and he ran for re-election as a senator and won, when would he be seated as a senator? Legislators take office upon winning the general election, which is Nov. 5.

Bunda said he was too busy worrying about starting work on the next legislative session to track what is happening in the lieutenant governor's office.

"As far as those concerns, I will leave it up to the lawyers and the AG and the Supreme Court," he said.

Hanabusa says she does not think it will have much effect. "It would be only for a short period, and during that time, without a special session the office of Senate president is mostly ministerial," she said.

Meanwhile, former state Sen. and District Judge Russell Blair contends that Mayor Jeremy Harris should resign after announcing for governor. He also said that when the office of mayor becomes vacant, Hirono should resign.

Blair said if Harris does not agree to ask the state Supreme Court for guidance, he will file suit in Circuit Court next week to get a ruling. If that happens and Blair is proven correct, then Bunda and Hanabusa could be moving offices even sooner.

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