Richar Borreca

On Politics


If you are breathing,
you are running

There is something Zen-like in Mayor Jeremy Harris's decision to shut down his campaign for governor while not getting out of the race. Sort of like, "What is the sound of a campaigning politician not campaigning?"

For those who don't appreciate the carefully parsed political act, Harris's action must seem confusing.

Everyone knows Harris wants to be governor; he wanted to be governor in 1998 when U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye brokered a deal with Gov. Ben Cayetano and him right before the state Democratic convention. Harris stayed home and Cayetano supported Harris's bid for re-election.

Now we have a man who refused to say during his re-election campaign if he would leave office to become governor. But less than 100 days after winning re-election, Harris says he is running for governor.

To make everything legal, Harris filed a gubernatorial organizational report with the Campaign Spending Commission so he can raise and spend money to help him become governor.

In some states, such as Florida and Arizona, if you are in office and not in the last year of your term, you have to resign to run.

We have a dance by that name in Hawaii, but the rules are a little more complicated.

State law requires filing with the Campaign Spending Commission if you are raising and spending money for an office. So there was Harris, 14 weeks after winning city hall, being forced to say he is running for governor.

Harris figured that despite running a campaign for governor, he really wasn't running for governor until he filed his nomination papers.

Russell Blair, a retired legislator and District Court judge, says, "No way," Harris should actually resign as mayor if he wants to be governor. So Blair sues Harris in court to get him to resign, saying the state Constitution requires Harris to leave office immediately.

State judge Sabrina McKenna agrees with Blair, Harris appeals and McKenna says Harris doesn't have to step down until the Supreme Court decides.

But Harris says he will stop campaigning until the Supreme Court rules.

That is a wise move on Harris's part because if he didn't say he was halting his campaign, all next week Republicans would be standing in line to hold news conferences demanding that Democrat Harris obey the law, listen to the judge, not put himself above the constitution and get out of the race. Notwithstanding Cayetano's advice to keep on campaigning, Harris made the right move by saying his campaign was shut down. And, of course, Judge McKenna also told him to knock it off.

So into the lock box goes the Harris campaign. No money shall be raised, no money spent, no speeches given, no commercials aired. Harris, in fact, says he is even locking the doors to his campaign headquarters.

But not campaigning without pulling out of the race is nearly impossible. As Senate President Robert Bunda notes, "As a politician, you can never not be campaigning."

"Every day is a campaign," Bunda says. "What you say and how you act -- it is all campaigning. From the moment I say I want to be elected, I am campaigning."

So locked campaign door or not, if Harris's eyes are open he's campaigning to be governor.

The last week, however, probably didn't earn him many of votes. And the campaign still is under investigation by the city prosecutor for campaign spending violations.

As it stands now, the Harris campaign goes into the spring with a full count. If the pitcher misses, Harris is on base, but one more swing and a miss, and Harris is out.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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