Inouye urges competition in campaign for governor


POSTED: Friday, November 20, 2009

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye is encouraging many people to run for office and is urging “;healthy competition”; but has not formally endorsed Mayor Mufi Hannemann's expected bid for governor in 2010, according to an Inouye spokesman.

At a $500-per-ticket Sheraton Waikiki fundraiser Wednesday night, Hannemann told supporters Inouye wants him in the 2010 governor's race.

“;Sen. Inouye is encouraging us to seek the top seat in Hawaii,”; Hannemann said.

That does not translate to an endorsement, said Inouye spokesman Peter Boylan yesterday.

“;The senator encourages lots of candidates to run for office,”; he said. “;Encouraging people to participate in the Democratic process is critical to ensuring healthy competition.”;

Asked about Inouye's reaction to Hannemann's statement, Boylan said, “;Healthy competition is good for the Democratic Party. It strengthens the party's ranks and adds depth to the party's bench.”;

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who has served in Washington with Inouye for 20 years, has already announced his campaign for governor.

An interest in having Hannemann running for governor would appear to mean Inouye did not want Abercrombie to have the Democratic primary to himself.

An Abercrombie spokeswoman said yesterday he respects “;the senator's decision to remain neutral.”;

“;Sen. Inouye's statement that he is not endorsing any candidate for governor speaks for itself,”; said Laurie Au, campaign spokeswoman.

In past campaigns, Inouye has gone out of his way to stop Democratic primary battles, or “;bloodletting,”; in his words.

In 2001 he told the state Democratic Party convention he hoped that he could stop then-Mayor Jeremy Harris and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono from running against each other for governor.

He said having only one of the two campaigning for governor would be “;the ideal situation.”;

“;The other way is to have a bloodletting in the primary,”; Inouye said.

University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner says Inouye's tiptoeing around the Hannemann endorsement issue raises questions.

“;Why, all of a sudden, is Inouye, as he says, encouraging people, not just Mufi, to run if most Democrat big shots fear primary contests?”; he asked.