Thursday, May 30, 2002

Mayor Harris will not
run for governor

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono says she
will set her sights on governor's race

Staff and wire reports

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris announced today he will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, a political bombshell that will shake up this year’s gubernatorial and mayoral races.

“I don’t believe I can win so I am stepping aside,” Harris said in a 4:10 p.m. news conference on the steps of Honolulu Hale. He cited the “bumps” that his campaign has encountered over the past months, including a legal challenge that led him to suspend his campaign.

The announcement had immediate political ramifications.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, an announced candidate for mayor, said at a 4:30 p.m. press conference that she will run for the Democratic nomination for governor instead.

Harris said his campaign’s recent polls had him losing by 22 points in November.

Harris had suspended his campaign after a judge’s ruling in March saying that he should have resigned his mayoral seat last year when he launched his campaign. Earlier this month, however, the state Supreme Court reversed that ruling, and said Harris could remain mayor until he filed his nomination papers in July.

Harris was expected to restart his campaign this weekend at the state Democratic convention, which starts Friday.

“I don’t know of a single soul telling him to do this,” said former Gov. John Waihee said. “He hasn’t even campaigned yet.”

Harris’ move, which set off a flurry of telephone calls and e-mails in the state Capitol and the downtown business community earlier today, has major implications for the November elections.

The pullout gives Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andy Anderson and Ed Case a major lift. But it leaves announced mayoral candidates Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, Councilman Duke Bainum and former city Councilman Mufi Hanneman without a race.

Waihee said the Democrats will now be gathering to discuss their next step.

“What we have to do now is get together and every Democrat has to search their soul to do what’s right for Hawaii,” Waihee said.

Case said Harris's announcement won't affect his gubernatorial campaign.

A Hanneman spokesman said they are surprised by the move and are mulling options.

A spokesman for Linda Lingle, Republican gubernatorial candidate, had no immediate comment.

After filing organizational papers with the state Campaign Spending Commission in May 2001, Harris has faced a number of political and administrative stumbling blocks.

Last November, Russell Blair, a former state lawmaker and judge, sued Harris, saying the state’s resign-to-run law required Harris to step down last year.

Circuit Judge Sabrina McKenna ruled in Blair’s favor in March, prompting Harris to suspend his campaign pending an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

The high court ruled in Harris’ favor, but the mayor has not been able to get his gubernatorial campaign on track.

Last year, the state Campaign Spending Commission launched an investigation into Harris’ 2000 mayoral campaign and more than 60 city contractors who contributed to Harris’ re-election effort.

In January, the five-member commission voted to send a complaint to city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle for criminal prosecution. That probe has since been joined by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Harris and his campaign officials have denied wrongdoing and has alleged that he is a victim of a smear campaign.

The state, city federal investigations came after the Star-Bulletin reported last June that the Harris campaign raised about $750,000 -- or about a third of its $2 million war chest -- from dozens of city contractors.

Harris’s woes weren’t limited to the political front.

A reinvigorated Honolulu City Council -- thanks to the recent convictions of Rene Mansho and Andy Mirikitani -- has challenged Harris administration’s spending. Newly elected city Council Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi led the charge with allegations that the Harris administration raided various department’s funds to balance the budget.

Earlier this month, a federal grand jury indicted six Honolulu liquor investigators and two former supervisors on charges of extortion and racketeering.

The 57-count indictment alleged that the liquor commissioners accepted and extorted bribes from proprietors of liquor establishments they were supposed to monitor.

The indictments follow the Ewa Villages scandal in which former city housing official Michael Kahapea was found guilty in August 2000 of 43 counts of theft, money-laundering and forgery.

The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter
Rick Daysog contributed to this report.

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