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Cec Heftel, former Congressman and broadcast industry mogul, died


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POSTED: Friday, February 05, 2010

Cec Heftel, former Hawaii congressman and broadcast industry pioneer, died yesterday in San Diego, according to his family.

In a short press release, family members said Heftel, 85, had “;been in failing health for a while and died of natural causes.”;

Heftel made his fortune in the radio and television industries, and was one of Honolulu's most successful broadcasters, owning the KGMB television and radio stations in the 1960s and 70s.

Born Sept. 30, 1924, in Chicago, Heftel attended college in Arizona, later served in the Army Air Force and attended law school on the GI Bill.

He was a pioneer in the 1950s radio industry managing stations in Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Arizona before buying Hawaii's KGMB radio and TV stations in 1965.

There he created local programming, such as the “;Checkers and Pogo”; show, and put together the KGMB TV news team, anchored by Bob Sevey, making it the top-rated news station of its time.

KGMB-AM 590 became KSSK-AM, which Heftel also owned and operated. He put KGMB-FM 93.1 on the air on Oct. 1, 1967, but he later sold the station to put KULA-FM 92.3, now KSSK-FM, on the air.

His radio empire also grew throughout the mainland over the years.

Heftel put aside his broadcasting career and became active in Hawaii Democratic politics. In 1976, he ran and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 1st Congressional District.

Heftel served until 1986 when he resigned to run for governor. Heftel was upset in the Democratic primary election by John Waihee, who went on to become governor by defeating D.G. “;Andy”; Anderson. Heftel blamed the defeat on a last-minute smear campaign.

He later left the islands and relocated to Las Vegas where he concentrated on broadcasting business interests.

Heftel eventually returned to Hawaii and local politics, however. In 2004, he ran and won a seat on the state Board of Education. He did not run for re-election in 2008.

Heftel has been credited for being a radio-industry visionary for seeing an opportunity to serve the burgeoning Hispanic population in the United States and buying Spanish-language FM stations in Los Angeles. The company, Heftel Broadcasting, later became known as Hispanic Broadcasting Co.