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Friday, July 8, 2005
Kim said he did not want to run, but noted that he did not want to run for mayor at first, either.
On Wednesday, Kim attended a large Democratic Party fund-raiser to honor U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye at a restaurant in Honolulu. Kim asked to introduce Inouye.
"When I got word he was coming, I owe this man so much, I wanted to thank him for so much he has done," Kim said about his decision to speak for Inouye, adding that it was the first political fund-raiser he had ever attended.
Democrats have been hunting for possible opponents to Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has yet to declare her candidacy for a second term.
Kim, who ran and won the Hawaii County mayorship in 2000 as a Republican, says he was glad to run for re-election last year as a nonpartisan. In 2000 he did not have a campaign organization to coordinate his bid and accepted donations only up to $10 a person.
"I ran basically as myself," said Kim, who had been director of the Big Island civil defense for 16 years.
This year, Democrats, including party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria, have asked Kim to run for governor. Kim said party labels do not really interest him, although if he ran, it would be as a Democrat.
"I have never been a Republican," Kim said, adding that he had to pick a party when he first ran in 2000, and the GOP seemed more palatable than the Democrats.
Galuteria said Kim's appearance shows he "obviously supports the party."
Asked about a possible Kim candidacy, Galuteria, not wanting to offend other possible candidates, responded that at the fund-raiser "there were a lot of faces in the crowd who could run for governor.
"But the winds of politics could change at any moment," Galuteria said.
Now, Kim says he is listening to Democrats who have been asking him to run for governor against Lingle.
Kim said he was flattered at first to be asked to consider a run for governor, but considered it "an ego trip."
"I was very flattered but that was all. Then more and more people started to talk about it, and you realize this is not just in passing. People are thinking about it; people are talking about it and come to you about it.
"In fairness to everybody, including, obviously, the Democratic Party people, my Cabinet, my family and first of all the people of this island, they need to know," Kim said.
"I just got to think about it. I like this job. I didn't want to do it, but you sit down and isolate yourself and ask what is your mission, what is your purpose, what is right for you to do.
"I am asking myself the same questions now.
"I just talked to my family the first time about it this weekend," Kim said.
Kim, 65, had a heart attack in May but returned to work days after doctors put two stents -- wire mesh tubes -- in small blood vessels in his heart.
Aides now say Kim is working long hours and is fit.
News of Kim's considering running for governor and attending a Democratic fund-raiser came as a shock to GOP officials.
"I didn't know about it. Harry Kim has been an independent Republican, but he ran as a Republican and declared himself a Republican. I am a bit surprised he would do something like that," Sam Aiona, GOP chairman, said.
Aiona would not comment on a possible Kim campaign, saying "we are focused on getting Linda Lingle re-elected."
Other Big Island politicians were also unaware of Kim's possible interest in a governor's race.
"What I can say is, we would welcome Harry Kim to the Democratic Party," said Big Island Sen. Lorraine Inouye, a Democrat who is a former Hawaii mayor.