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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 4:45 p.m., Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Harris says he's running for governor

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Less than four months after he was sworn in as Honolulu mayor, Jeremy Harris ended speculation about his next political move: he's running for governor next year.

Harris plans to file a campaign organizational report tomorrow to formally begin the process, something that he's been mulling over for years. He said he plans to make education his top priority. But he also said the ongoing strike by public school teachers and professors did not prompt him to announce his intentions now.

"No, this is the time. I need to get started and be organizing," Harris said today. "I've gone through a lot of soul-searching, my wife and I talked it over and we've decided that this is the right thing to do and I can make a contribution and so we're going to go."

When Harris ran for re-election last year, he would not commit to serving out the four-year term of the office. He said he had numerous projects he wanted to pursue as mayor.

Harris, 50, was first elected as Honolulu mayor in 1994 when he won the two-year term left by former Mayor Frank Fasi when he quit to run for governor. Harris was re-elected in 1996 and in September.

Harris said he has proven that he can do the job by what he's done with the city, continuing to run the city with enhanced services with 8 percent fewer city employees and $62 million less in real property tax revenues. "You can take the resources that you have and find more creative ways to do the job."

The mayor's move will set up a lively, anticipated contest for the Democratic nomination for governor against Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono. She has become increasingly visible, distancing herself from Gov. Ben Cayetano, most recently by marching with striking teachers and university faculty.

Harris has been seen by political observers as the more formidable gubernatorial candidate. If he wins in a primary run-off, he would likely go on to face Republican Party chairwoman Linda Lingle, who came close to defeating Cayetano in 1998.

By leaving before his mayoral term is completed, Harris clears the way for others to run for his seat.

Mufi Hannemann, who Harris defeated last year for the office, is expected to wage another campaign for mayor. Former Mayor Frank Fasi plans to run and Councilman Duke Bainum, city managing director Ben Lee, city prosecutor Peter Carlisle and city corporation counsel David Arakawa have also been mentioned as possible candidates.