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Monday, June 5, 2000

Hannemann may give
Harris a tough race

Bullet The issue: The Honolulu mayoral race is a three-sided affair among Jeremy Harris, Mufi Hannemann and Frank Fasi.

Bullet Our view: Hannemann could be a formidable challenger to the mayor.

THE Honolulu mayoral election this year is shaping up as a real contest between the incumbent, Jeremy Harris, and Councilman Mufi Hannemann, with Frank Fasi apparently playing the role of spoiler.

From his position on the City Council, Hannemann has established himself as the mayor's chief critic -- although outvoted on most issues. He clashed with the mayor on his budget proposals last year, losing the Council chairmanship in the process.

Hannemann shrewdly exploited Harris' quarrels with the public employee unions to win the endorsements of both the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers. This greatly strengthened his credibility as a candidate. The public worker unions are usually major factors in state and county elections.

Hannemann's position is also bolstered by his record of service in state and federal government and in business as well as at the county level. Like Fasi, he has persisted in a political career after losing a bid for a U.S. congressional seat.

Harris is vulnerable to the charge that if re-elected he would quit in mid-term to run for governor. Hannemann can be expected to hammer away at that theme.

Fasi made that decision in 1994. Honolulu's longest serving mayor has been out of office since. He has never forgiven Harris for failing to endorse him for governor after making Harris acting mayor when he left Honolulu Hale. Although Fasi wants to win, he would like nothing better than to contribute to Harris' defeat.

But unseating an incumbent seldom happens, particularly in Hawaii. The mayor has the advantage of being able to mobilize the city-county's resources for programs that keep his name and face before the public -- and Harris knows the importance of using this advantage effectively.

He has been an active mayor on a number of fronts. His neighborhood visioning program has brought him in contact with thousands of citizens.

Although Hannemann won the endorsement of the HGEA and UPW, Harris has the support of the ILWU, the electrical workers union, the nurses association and the Building and Construction Trades Council.

In the latest Star-Bulletin/NBC Hawaii News 8 poll, 44 percent of respondents gave Harris a favorable rating to 26 percent unfavorable and 30 percent neutral. Hannemann was rated favorably by 33 percent, unfavorably by 23 percent, and neutral by a significantly large 44 percent. If he can find a way to convert those neutral respondents into supporters, he will be a formidable contender.

FASI is far back with 25 percent favorable, 23 unfavorable and 45 percent neutral. But the old campaigner points out that it's still early in the campaign. He is a long shot, but he has overcome the odds before and could be a factor in this race.

But the candidate who has changed the dimensions of the mayoral race is Hannemann. He's articulate and ambitious, knows government and politics, and has cultivated a following. He can be expected to make a serious challenge. Harris could have his hands full.

Execution in Vietnam

Bullet The issue: A Vietnamese-Canadian woman was executed in Vietnam although officials had assured Canada that the execution would be delayed because of new evidence.

Bullet Our view: The Canadian government did what it could to put pressure on Hanoi.

CANADA and Vietnam have been at odds recently over a criminal case that provided another painful aftershock from the Vietnam War. Four years ago two Vietnamese-Canadian women were arrested and charged with carrying 12 pounds of heroin through the Hanoi airport. Canadian officials objected to the arrests, saying they believed the two women were duped by a drug-smuggling gang.

The women were Tran Thi Cam, now 74, and her daughter, Nguyen Thi Hiep, 43. Both had been imprisoned until April 24, when Nguyen Thi Hiep was executed by firing squad.

The execution was a shock. Vietnamese officials had assured Canada that they were willing to delay the operation because of new evidence that the two women had been duped.

In protest, Canada suspended diplomatic relations, cut off support for Vietnam's bid to join the World Trade Organization and suspended annual talks on development assistance.

Bowing to pressure, Vietnam indicated it was willing to turn over the executed woman's remains to her family. On Friday, the Associated Press reported, a Vietnamese official informed the Canadian embassy that a recommendation had been made to President Tran Duc Luong to grant amnesty to Tran Thi Cam. She is expected to be freed as part of a general amnesty on Sept. 2, Vietnam's national day.

Hanoi also accepted Ottawa's demand that Canadian police be allowed to investigate the drug-trafficking case on Vietnamese soil.

THE dead woman's husband, Tran Hieu, left his job as a restaurateur in Toronto to come to Vietnam to be near his imprisoned wife. Over the years, he was only allowed to see her a half-dozen times. He said he doesn't understand why she was executed.

In Communist Vietnam, he may never get a satisfactory explanation to what appears to have been an arbitrary act by a despotic regime. But at least, unlike millions of other victims of communism, he has a democratic government that is willing to stand up for his family's rights.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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