Sunday, June 2, 2002

At the podium Inouye used his speech to try to fire up the Democrats and to call for unity in tough political times. The convention wraps up today at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Dems fight for
political life

U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye stresses
party unity as the key to beating
isle Republicans at polls

Inquiries cloud Harris' future

By Crystal Kua

Democrats are in for the fight of their political lives this year and the only way they can beat the Republicans and their gubernatorial front-runner Linda Lingle this fall is to stop fighting among themselves.

That was the message from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on the second day of the state Democratic convention.

"And when we find ourselves divided, we lose. It never fails," he said.

Inouye and the three Democrats who have announced their runs for governor -- state Rep. Ed Case, former state lawmaker D.G. "Andy" Anderson and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono -- told the convention yesterday that no matter who wins the primary election, Democrats will unite to victory against the Republicans in November.

"We're fighting for our political lives," Inouye said.

Inouye also paid tribute to Mayor Jeremy Harris, who made an appearance at the convention two days after the leading Democratic candidate for governor dropped out of the race and stunned his fellow Democrats.

Gubernatorial hopefuls worked the Democratic State Convention yesterday at the Sheraton-Waikiki, including, Mazie Hirono, followed by supporters.

"I'm glad to see you, Mayor Harris," Inouye said.

"There were some who were angry, some were disappointed, but you were honest with yourself."

On Thursday, Harris announced he would remain as Honolulu mayor and would not run for governor because he was 22 percentage points behind Republican Lingle in the polls and did not want his supporters giving their all in a race he did not think he could win.

In his speech, Inouye said there have been Democrats who have fallen with the weight of "stupidity and self interest," which may have tarnished the image of the party.

"In some ways, even more tragic, is our own back-biting and internal skirmishes. And you know what I mean," he said. "It has got to stop. We can't be fighting each other, we can't be insulting each other."

Andy Anderson greeting Gov. Ben Cayetano.

He said he has also read news accounts of elected Democrats "sniping" at each other.

Inouye pointed out that Lingle won on Maui because Democrats on Maui were split and could not come together.

"We're now facing her as the Republican candidate for governor. That's what happens when we find ourselves divided," Inouye said.

His comments were met with thunderous applause, prompting him early on to quip, "Keep it up and I might just run for governor."

During her speech, Hirono declared, "I am the candidate who will beat Linda Lingle in the general election." The lieutenant governor jumped back into the governor's race from the now-defunct mayor's race after Harris' decision.

She showed strength in manpower with dozens of supporters marching behind her and carrying red, white and blue Hirono signs behind her.

"This year the people of Hawaii are going to elect their first woman governor, and that woman will be a Democrat," she said.

Businessman Anderson, a former state GOP chairman and a previously unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, charmed many in the audience with a joke about growing puppies switching parties after they opened their eyes.

Ed Case at the podium.

"I want to thank Mrs. Lingle today, she opened my eyes," Anderson said.

"I do want to thank you for welcoming me to your party."

Anderson attacked the Republican party, which he characterized as steering away from controversial issues, something Democrats are not afraid to do, he said.

Case brought his family onto the stage with him and remarked on the diversity of the Democrats. The party's success lies in being united in values of equality, opportunity, compassion, tolerance, sustainability, care for the land and respect for the indigenous culture, he said.

"Our candidacy offers to you, to all of Hawaii a fresh message of responsible change," he said. "This is what people want. This is what we will do and this is why we can and will prevail in November."

Delegates said they were energized by the speeches.

"Maybe coming into the weekend with Jeremy's announcement, everybody thought that, wow, the Democratic party is in bad shape. But after seeing what we have to offer as far as the governor's race, I think we're in great shape," said delegate Roy Jardine of Kailua-Kona.

Harris supporter Manny Menendez said that the focus of the Democrats right now is on the party as a whole.

"I think the main message now is unity, coming together. I think you're going to have an interesting primary," Menendez said. "I think a front runner will emerge in the days ahead but I think right now it's too early to say but I think there could be some other candidates that could now emerge."




Inquiries cloud Harris’ future

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' shocking departure from the governor's race raises the question of whether this signals the beginning of the end of a promising career or just a pause before greater things.

Most political observers the Star-Bulletin spoke with think the 51-year-old marine biologist will continue his political career, provided he can get past the investigations into his campaign finances.

Harris himself said, "I certainly intend to stay in the political arena," as he announced his intention to fill out the remainder of his mayoral term rather than seek the Democratic nomination for governor.

Dan Boylan, a University of Hawaii at West Oahu history professor, said he expects a resolute Harris to go like gangbusters in the next two years to put himself back into favor with voters.

In eight years as mayor, he has shown himself to be an intelligent, driven leader who "has the capacity to work very hard (and) to focus like few politicians can," Boylan said.

"Don't underestimate his skills as a mayor," he said. "His ability to use his office to feed his ambition and support his image, while also helping the city and making the city a better place, is awesome."

Ira Rohter, a University of Hawaii at Manoa political science professor and chairman of the Hawaii Green Party, said he doubts Harris will ride quietly into the sunset during the last two years of his term.

The crowd at the Democratic State Convention rose to applaud Mayor Jeremy Harris yesterday after U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye noted how Harris had taken a bold step when he quit the campaign for governor on Thursday.

"He's a man who's achieved a lot, this is not a lightweight person," Rohter said. The perception by many, including those in the Democratic Party, is that "maybe he moved too fast in front of the parade," Rohter said.

The next two years for Harris will be about "trying to validate himself," Rohter said. "His claim that he's been a great mayor has just been shot full of holes over the last several months."

Harris said he was not running for governor because his polls showed he would not be able to beat Republican Linda Lingle. He also said he wanted to show cynics that his policies haven't been just about making him an attractive gubernatorial candidate at the expense of city finances.

"Some people think that I'm leaving the city in the lurch if I resign now to run for governor," he said. "Well, I don't intend to do that and I don't want anyone to feel that I'm leaving the city in the lurch."

Managing Director Ben Lee said: "Everything we've done has not been political. It's only been characterized that way by the media."

Programs that have been sullied such as Brunch on the Beach "are done out of the goodness of our hearts, sincerely, to improve the economy," Lee said.

Harris campaign co-chairman Rick Tsujimura said he has no idea what the mayor's plans may be for the future, but he believes Harris will continue to be in politics after his term is over.

"Jeremy's an astute politician and I don't think this is his swan song," Tsujimura said.

Don Clegg, Harris' pollster, said he believes the next two years will give Harris an opportunity to remind people what he does best.

"He's got two years to work at, in some sense, proving the critics wrong about what they were saying about the city," Clegg said.

"In politics, timing is everything, and in two years, you don't know what opportunities will open up, what things will happen. Who would have said six months ago, or nine months ago, that Jeremy wouldn't run?"

The timing, however, has now been wrong for Harris twice. After acknowledging in 1998 that he was interested in challenging Gov. Ben Cayetano's reelection bid, Harris said he was pulling out even though the polls showed that he could beat GOP candidate Linda Lingle.

"It was wrong because it was Ben's time," Clegg said, adding that his polls showed Harris could not have gotten past Cayetano in the Democratic primary on his way to facing Lingle.

Boylan said the decision to withdraw this time will be remembered by the voters. "He's branded as the guy who pulled out," he said. "And this is the second time he has teased people about running for governor."

Boylan noted that Harris has not been in such a vulnerable political position in a while, having won three consecutive elections for mayor, and people might sense he was spooked.

"He basically said, 'I don't have the stomach for six more months of this, and I don't want to deal with the possibility I might lose.'" Boylan said.

Some dismissed Harris' explanation that a 22-point deficit in the polls was a key reason he bolted from the governor's race.

City Council Chairman John DeSoto, who has been in office through all the years Harris has been mayor, said "something is up because Jeremy is not a quitter."

Said former Mayor Frank Fasi referring to the $1 million Harris has raised for the governor's race: "It's unlike Harris to turn around with a (campaign) war chest that would beat anyone else for governor. It doesn't make sense. There's something else out there that we're not aware of."

That "something else," some speculate, may have to deal with the pending investigation into Harris' campaign finances.

Harris avoided the topic during his announcement but, when asked about it later by reporters, said the investigations did not play a role in his decision.

But Boylan speculated the investigations and the possibility of indictments played a key role in Harris' decision.

"I think he foresaw that he would have to continue to be on the defense, that there would be probably, if not indictments of him, indictments of somebody in his organization, or there will be an awful lot of people who will be fined," Boylan said.

"And he knows that, and it's down the line and it's not over," he said. "And it's hard to raise money and mount a campaign and get enthusiasm going, particularly your own, when you have to continue to do so."

Boylan added: "If there are major things that smear him later on, that's not going to help him two years from now and his political career may be over, but then again it may not."

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Leeward Coast) said she expects Harris to be part of the political landscape in 2004 unless the mayor himself is indicted.

"I think for him it would have to be against him," Hanabusa said, noting that she expects the mayor to run for Congress or some other race even if those close to him are indicted. "And then it would be up to the voters," she said.

Rohter said the investigations are the great unknown for Harris. If the proceedings go badly for the mayor, he said, "it's going to be a whole other story."

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