Democratic majors sit out the big race
AFTER 18 months of rumors, Hawaii's Democratic Party now must choose between William Aila and Randy Iwase to lead them into battle for the governor's seat.
Don't expect "Braveheart" playing out into the fall elections. Nor will it be a political process of natural selection with the most adept leading the pack.
Instead the Democrats go into the fall campaign with what's left after three major candidates begged off.
First up was banker and Demo-cratic Party stalwart Walter Dods. He declined to run even after the Democrats in the Legislature had a "Walter Dods appreciation day" for him upon his retirement from First Hawaiian Bank.
Dods had been the supreme campaign tactician for previous governors. With both his own funds and his savvy, Dods would have been a formidable foe.
Dods is not spending his retirement on a park bench. He still is involved in local businesses, charities and trusts, but he has drifted away from the local political scene.
Next up was Rep. Neil Abercrombie, whose style of tub-thumping bombast has made him a staple at political conventions and rallies. Abercrombie also toyed with giving up his seat in Congress for a chance to oppose Governor Lingle in the general election. Abercrombie came to the brink of the campaign plunge, but then looked away.
The veteran Democrat, who had served in the state House, state Senate and Honolulu City Council before going to Washington, said he couldn't raise the needed funds for the race because campaign laws limited the out-of-state money he could raise. It was an odd explanation that in a state as fiercely Democratic as Hawaii, a veteran Democrat couldn't get enough local funds to be competitive.
Abercrombie's departure brought up the Big Island's plain-speaking, jeans-wearing mayor, Harry Kim, as the next Democratic hope.
Kim, who last year announced that he was a Democrat although he ran for Big Island mayor in 2000 as a Republican, spent more than a year listening to campaign suitors offering help and endorsements.
A Kim campaign would offer a novel approach. He won his two Big Island races with minimal funds and a cadre of dedicated supporters who trusted his low-key and nonpolitical approach to government.
But by Friday Kim was ready to get back to working on Big Island issues. He said he would remain as mayor and forgo a race for governor.
That leaves the Democrats with two candidates. First William Aila, who is a state employee -- the Waianae harbormaster. Aila has a dedicated following from his work on Hawaiian issues, but is not a statewide name.
The final Democrat is Randy Iwase, who has been around the party since he was a deputy attorney general in 1974, but has yet to develop the critical mass needed for the fall campaign.
Democrats today, however, will have to assemble a campaign with those few left standing.
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