Big Isle mayor will not run
Mayor Harry Kim decides not to challenge Gov. Lingle
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim ended more than a year of speculation yesterday, announcing he will not run for governor in the September primary election.
Kim had been urged by some Hawaii Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, to try to unseat Republican Gov. Linda Lingle. Kim took months to decide but said he finally made up his mind at 4 a.m. yesterday.
"I resolved what I will do regarding the governor's job. I did wake my wife to tell her first," Kim said in a news release.
"The bottom line in decision-making was simply to finish the task at hand and honor my commitment to the people of Hawaii County before taking on another task," he said.
Democratic candidate for governor Randy Iwase said he "greatly respected" Kim's decision. Iwase faces Hawaiian activist and Waianae Harbormaster William Aila in the primary.
Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney said Kim would have been "a great candidate."
"He is a proven leader, and I respect his decision not to run," he said.
McCartney said Iwase and Aila already have their campaigns well under way, and denied that either can be characterized as an underdog.
Anyone running against an incumbent is an underdog, and while Lingle might already have millions in her campaign war chest, that advantage can be overcome with a strong grass-roots campaign, he said.
On the Big Island, several possible candidates to fill Kim's seat said they appreciated his decision to remain mayor.
Hawaii County Council Chairman Stacy Higa was among potential candidates for the mayor's post if Kim had left it, but he said, "I think it's great" that Kim will remain as mayor.
"Harry and his entire administration have done a decent job, an effective job, and I would like to see him finish his term.
"I don't agree with every decision he's made, but I think he's an honorable man and I respect him."
Former Council Chairman Gary Safarik was also viewed as a potential mayoral candidate in case of a vacancy, but he said he was glad that Kim will remain on the job.
When Kim entered the mayor's office in 2000, the county was having financial difficulties, Safarik noted. "We've gone from shortfall to windfall," he said.
Safarik said Kim and the Council need the next two years to work on a major solid-waste problem and a proposed waste-to-energy project.
Before forgoing the campaign for governor, Kim took a couple of shots at the Lingle administration. Kim said he had disagreed with Lingle's positions on prisons and education.
Last week, Lingle said she has shifted her stated policy of attempting to build more prisons in Hawaii and instead would stress community rehabilitation centers and sending Hawaii prisons to mainland institutions.
"It is very disturbing to hear that the state has committed to a program policy of mainland incarceration. I am sorry for that decision," Kim said.
Kim called it a "major difference in the values between myself and the present administration.
"It is not a matter of right or wrong; it simply is a matter of difference in values," he said.
Kim, however, said that after thinking about the race for governor, he was drawn back to his Big Island duties.
Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Thompson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.