Friday, January 4, 2002

Suit asks removal of mayor
if he’s campaigning

By Bruce Dunford
Associated Press

Former judge and state lawmaker Russell Blair filed a lawsuit yesterday seeking immediate removal of Mayor Jeremy Harris from office if he continues campaigning for governor.

Blair contends a 1978 amendment to the state Constitution -- requiring office-holders to resign when they become a candidate for another office with an overlapping term -- is triggered when the office-holder files an organizational report with the state Campaign Spending Commission.

Harris filed his report May 15, 2001, 41/2 months after beginning a four-year term as mayor following the 2000 election.

Blair said he did not bring the lawsuit as a means of hurting Harris' gubernatorial campaign or to support or oppose the resign-to-run requirement.

"I don't want to suggest that this is a matter of where Russell Blair is expressing a personal opinion," Blair said. "Russell Blair simply feels the Constitution is too important to ignore, and I believe that is what the mayor is doing essentially for political benefits."

The state Supreme Court declined last month to take the case on an emergency basis, saying Blair could bring it in Circuit Court. The Circuit Court is being asked to decide when an office-holder must resign when seeking an office with an overlapping term, said Blair's attorney, William Deeley.

A telephone message left with Harris' spokeswoman was not returned yesterday.

When the Supreme Court declined on Dec. 10 to hear the case, Harris campaign attorney Robert Klein said the constitutional provision is clear that "you have to resign to be eligible to run."

He said a candidate's eligibility is determined when the candidate files nomination papers for the different office.

The deadline for filing nomination papers is July 23.

Blair said Harris' point that the issue has not been brought up before "is a little bit hollow because nobody has ever announced 14 weeks after they were elected mayor that they really wanted to be governor instead. So in a sense, by pushing it to such an extreme, he has created the issue about which he now complains."

Blair noted that "last night, while watching television, the program was interrupted so Mayor Harris could tell me what to do in case someone sent me an anthrax letter," he said, referring to a public service announcement featuring the mayor. "It's pretty clear he's using his present public office in an attempt to become a pale imitation of (former New York City Mayor) Rudy Giuliani to a degree unprecedented in the history of Hawaii."

Blair, who gave up his District Court judgeship in November to return to the University of Hawaii to study math and chemistry, said his motives are not political. Blair said he deleted Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, City Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura and Councilman Duke Bainum from his lawsuit because any ruling would apply to all candidates.

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