Lingle backs
arrested candidate

Rep. Brian Blundell says
that he also has support from
his district in West Maui

Gov. Linda Lingle is supporting the re-election of Republican state Rep. Brian Blundell, who was arrested last week for allegedly groping the crotch of an undercover police officer.

"I spoke with him Saturday and again (yesterday), and he's committed to running. And I told him that I support him in his effort," Lingle said yesterday.

Blundell said he has also receiving encouragement from people in his district in West Maui. "There's overwhelming support for my candidacy," he said.

Lingle said she has known Blundell for 25 years and believes he can win.

"The people of Maui are extremely compassionate. They know him so well," she said. "He's done a good job for them."

Blundell lives in Lahaina, where he owns Central Pacific Marine Inc., a marine engine sales and service company.

Blundell was the only candidate to file nomination papers to run for the 10th House District, which stretches from Honokohau to Kihei. No one else had taken out nomination papers.

On Thursday, Honolulu police arrested the first-term lawmaker under suspicion of fourth-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. Police said Blundell approached a plainclothes police officer outside a Kapiolani Park restroom and groped the officer's crotch. The officer was in the area because of complaints about homosexual advances, police said.

Blundell, 62, made an appearance in Honolulu District Court on Friday morning and then returned to Maui. He is scheduled to return to court Aug. 6. Blundell said he was on Oahu because he likes to go to his office in the state Capitol two days a week, usually Thursdays and Fridays, and stays overnight.

Blundell said he will take responsibility for his actions but said "at this point, I can't discuss that" -- on the advice of his attorney.

Democratic Party officials were talking to three possible candidates for Blundell's House seat yesterday and are confident at least one of them will file nomination papers, said Donalyn Dela Cruz, Democratic Party of Hawaii spokeswoman.

Today is the deadline for candidates to file to run in this year's elections. The election for Blundell's West Maui seat is the only one for which the Democrats have yet to field a candidate.

Attorney Jim Rouse, who lost to Blundell in the 2002 general elections, is not among the Democratic candidates considering a run for the West Maui seat. Rouse said he would like to run again but is unable because of work commitments. He left his job as a deputy state public defender in May to go into private practice.


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