Monday, July 2, 2001

Harris, Hirono
gear up for 2002
primary battle

Both gather statewide support
in the race to be the Democratic
nominee for governor

By Richard Borreca

It is 15 months before the first vote is counted in the September 2002 Democratic primary election, and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and Mayor Jeremy Harris are running hard.

Hirono is looking for money, Harris is lining up neighbor island support, and both top Democrats know they are in for a fight.

The winner will likely go on to face Republican Linda Lingle in the general election.

Today, both Democratic camps are ramping up intense preparatory campaigns.

"I have traveled to the neighbor islands, and we have gotten supporters lined up," says Harris, 50, who was first elected to office in 1978 as a constitutional convention delegate.

"We are putting together a statewide organization, both here on Oahu and on each of the neighbor islands," Harris says.

He figures that he will have support on Kauai, where he served on the County Council. Harris later served as Honolulu managing director before being elected mayor in 1994. He was re-elected in 1996 and 2000.

"On Kauai, I still have my old campaign organization," Harris says.

But Harris has never run a statewide campaign, while Hirono, as lieutenant governor, has run and won across the state twice.

"There is basically wide-spread acknowledgment that I brought a lot to the '94 election," Hirono says.

She adds that Gov. Ben Cayetano counted her as "one of the three things" that led to his 1994 win.

"If you look at the votes, in the primary election ... I had 10,000 more votes than he did. It is very clear that had broad appeal," she says.

The trick now is to translate that same organization into her own campaign for governor.

"The groundwork has been laid," Hirono, 53, says. "But in every campaign you just have to work darn hard."

A seven-term state representative before running and winning the lieutenant governorship in 1994, Hirono knows that one of her biggest challenges is raising enough money for the campaign.

Campaign Spending Commission records show Hirono reporting $148,123 in her campaign treasury at the end of 2000. Harris, who just came off a re-election campaign, had $209,682 at the same time.

Hirono is planing a July 12 fund-raiser at Dole Cannery Ballroom and notes that last year it was so successful, "it caused traffic jams."

Asked how she is raising money, Hirono is candid.

"By asking for it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no, so every day I ask," Hirono says.

Jim Loomis, who worked for Harris in a previous campaign, acknowledges that "money is really important" for any campaign for governor.

In 1998, Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano won re-election after spending $4,803,593, compared with the $3,165,088 spent by Lingle.

Media professionals say a $20,000-a-week television campaign for at least six weeks is needed for a statewide race for governor.

"For ordinary commercials the rule of thumb is that viewers have to see a commercial three times," says Mary Kinoshita, a media buying consultant. "For political commercials it will be more than that, because you are playing for all the marbles -- second place doesn't count in a political campaign."

The $20,000-a-week estimate is just to broadcast the commercial and does not include producing the ads, nor does it include radio, print or mail-outs, Kinoshita says.

Loomis adds that the primary responsibility of a candidate in a campaign is to "press the flesh and raise money."

"Every political consultant I've talked to says that if a candidate isn't willing to spend three or four hours a day on the phone raising money, they aren't serious," Loomis says. "All politicians hate the money part of campaigns."

Money alone, however, will not win an election.

Dennis Christianson, with Laird Christianson Advertising, who worked on Harris' last campaign for mayor, calls television "the air power of a campaign."

"But no one wins by carpet-bombing the opposition into surrender. You have to win on the ground -- grass roots," he says.

Both candidates are rounding up the foot soldiers in different ways.

Loomis points to Harris' city vision teams, which are organized on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood level to plan city improvements, as a tremendous policy move that pays off in good politics.

"Jeremy is the best there is at community," Loomis says. "The vision teams are a wonderful idea that can't be faulted."

Hirono is organized on all the islands, according to Allicyn Hikida Tasaka, who has taken a leave of absence from her state position as executive director of the Commission on the Status of Women to work on Hirono's campaign.

The list of volunteer coordinators includes attorney and former state legislator Tony Takitani on Maui; former Kauai Mayor Eduardo Malapit, Bernie Sakoda and Clyde Kodani on Kauai; Henry Cho in Kona on the Big Island; and Wayne Metcalf, insurance commissioner and former state legislator, in Hilo.

Hikida Tasaka, who is also a member of the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, adds that the Hirono campaign is in the process of developing a large honorary campaign committee.

That sort of work is critical to a big campaign, says Loomis, who also advises U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and has helped with Hawaii political campaigns for nearly 30 years.

"You have to go one on one and get commitments from people. And you have to do it early, especially on the neighbor islands." Loomis says.

Besides money and supporters, the third thing needed for a grueling statewide campaign, according to Loomis, is the actual desire to work harder than anyone else to win.

"You have to be driven to succeed," Loomis says. "You can't get tired; you can't get bored. You have to be as close to inexhaustible as possible."

Christianson, after watching Harris, says the description fits.

"No one should ever underestimate Jeremy Harris as a candidate. He is as tough as they come," says Christianson.

Hikida Tasaka says the same thing goes for her candidate, Mazie Hirono, whom she describes as being one of the most "strong-willed people I've met."

"She is truly mind over matter," Tasaka says. "Once she sets her mind on something, she gets it."

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