Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Dods reportedly
governor’s bid

He had been a Harris
campaign supporter

By Richard Borreca

Walter Dods, one of the state's most influential corporate and community citizens, is giving "serious consideration to running for governor," according to a close business associate.

Attorney Jeff Watanabe said Dods is thinking of joining the race for governor as a Democrat.

"I think he is giving it very serious consideration. Personally, I think he hasn't made up his mind yet," Watanabe said.

"He has done everything you can do in business. He has always had a public-service bent, and I think he would contribute," Watanabe added.

Dods, 61, is chairman and chief executive officer of BancWest Corp. and First Hawaiian Bank and is a trustee of the Damon Estate, the fourth-largest private landowner in the state. Dods has also been closely involved in local Democratic politics, serving as the campaign manager for former Gov. George Ariyoshi and U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

Although Dods' name had circulated as a possible candidate nearly a year ago, Dods was a supporter of Mayor Jeremy Harris.

When Harris dropped out of the Democratic primary earlier this month, speculation increased that Dods would enter the race. Dods has not run for political office before, although his brother, Robert, is a former state representative.

Dods was not available for comment.

The possible entry of a fourth major candidate into the governor's race was welcomed by Lorraine Akiba, Democratic Party chairwoman, who called Dods a "stellar corporate citizen and community role model."

"We still have three other great candidates already in the race, but obviously, Walter is an exemplary business leader and role model," Akiba said.

One of those candidates, D.G. "Andy" Anderson, called Dods "a formidable candidate."

"With his money, he will be able to mount a very good campaign. He has been one of the insiders for a very long time," Anderson said.

"But I don't think he is well versed enough in government," Anderson said. "He lacks the basic fundamental understanding of government. ... I would look forward to debating him."

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono said she would not speculate until Dods "makes up his mind," but she promised to continue her campaign for governor.

"I will just keep working hard. That is my ethic and my background. I believe in a campaign that is grass-roots," she said.

The third major Democrat in the race, Rep. Ed Case (D, Manoa), also said he thought he could beat Dods, noting that he is the only major Democrat to file for governor.

"This race is about giving voters a choice, and we offer the voters what they are looking for," Case said.

Republican candidate Linda Lingle was not available, and a spokesman for the campaign said Lingle would not comment on a possible candidacy by Dods.

The banker and business leader is one of the most visible executives in the state. After the New York and Washington terrorist attacks last year, Dods helped Gov. Ben Cayetano mount a campaign to revitalize local businesses and helped lead a Hawaii promotion tour to Japan.

Two years ago, Cayetano asked Dods to head a committee to raise money, design and build an aquarium on state land in Kakaako, a plan that was not successful.

Dods started with First Hawaiian Bank as director of public relations and advertising in 1968 and worked his way up through top management until becoming chairman and CEO in 1989. He then negotiated the merger that formed BancWest and then in 2001 negotiated the acquisition by BNP Paribas of France of the 55 percent of BancWest that it did not already own.

Besides serving as a director of the bank and its affiliates, Dods is also a director of Alexander & Baldwin and Matson Navigation, First Insurance Co., Grace Pacific, Pacific Guardian Life Insurance and Suntory Resorts.

He has served as chairman of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, director of the East-West Center, Hawaii Visitors Bureau chairman, with the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research and as a Punahou School trustee.

Dods is former president of the American Bankers Association and was a member of the Federal Advisory Council of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

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