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Tuesday, March 28, 2000

City & County of Honolulu

Hannemann gets
boost from HGEA

The Harris camp says
reorganization of city
government was the reason
the union endorsed the
mayor's opponent

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Mayor Jeremy Harris' reorganization of city government has helped persuade members of the Hawaii Government Employees Association to endorse Councilman Mufi Hannemann for mayor.

That's the assessment of Rick Tsujimura, one of Harris' campaign co-chairman. "It affected people's jobs and what they had to do," he said.

The 40,000-member HGEA scheduled a news conference today to announce its endorsement of Hannemann. The union backed Harris in 1996 when he ran against Arnold Morgado and ex-mayor Frank Fasi. Fasi is a candidate again this year.

HGEA's selection of Hannemann was not as surprising as its timing.

Four years ago, the union waited until the month before the September primary election to announce its endorsement of Harris as part of a slate of state and city candidates up for office.

The early announcement this year could be seen as an attempt to shift the challenger's campaign into high gear.

The United Public Workers union has yet to announce its choice, although union chief Gary Rodrigues attended Hannemann's fund-raiser two weeks ago.

Tsujimura said the Harris camp was disappointed in the HGEA's decision.

"The mayor really worked hard with the Council and employees to do more with less money," he said, in blaming the reorganization for making HGEA workers unhappy with Harris. "Change is difficult in any type of circumstances."

The reorganization resulted in only a handful of layoffs. But while employees complained about the large number of unfilled vacancies, Harris has trumpeted the smaller work force in campaign ads.

Hannemann, who would not comment yesterday on the HGEA endorsement pending the formal announcement, has said the reorganization had little impact on efficiency and actually cost more money than it saved.

Fasi said he wasn't surprised by the HGEA's endorsement of Hannemann and believes government employees have "caught on" to Harris' duplicity.

In the only other endorsement to date in this year's mayoral race, the Hawaii Building and Construction Trade Council earlier this month endorsed Harris. The council is comprised of 16 local trade unions.

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