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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, August 30, 2001

Yoshimura takes apology to hometown audience

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

WAIKAPU, Maui — Playing to a hometown crowd, and a Democratic one at that, Honolulu City Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura yesterday apologized again for lying about a traffic mishap two years ago.

Speaking before an audience of 30 at a luncheon meeting of the Maui Democratic Century Club at Maui Tropical Plantation, Yoshimura, a candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2002 election, also said he has been the target of unfair scrutiny by the news media because he is a former TV newsman. He said some journalists have accused him of "betrayal" because he quit the business and went "to the other side."

As to why it took two years to come forward with the truth, Yoshimura said "there was always a reason not to talk about it." One week he might be emceeing a friend's wedding and the next, dealing with crucial council business, and Yoshimura said he didn't want to divert attention away from the important events by announcing his mistake.

As to whether his admission will hurt his credibility, Yoshimura said: "There are people who didn't believe me the first time and people who didn't believe me the second time, and there's nothing I can do about that," he said, except ask voters to judge him by his accomplishments and vision for the future.

"It's hard to fault someone for telling the truth," said Century Club President Jonathan Starr, vice president of the Maui Democratic Party. "He certainly will be criticized for not doing it earlier. But he's better off doing it at the beginning of the campaign than waiting for it to come up later. He definitely is trying to build his credibility."

Yoshimura, who called a press conference Monday in Honolulu to admit he that lied, said he was making a U-turn on Auahi Street July 13, 1999, after having one drink with a friend at Ward Centre when his Mercedes skidded on the wet road and hit a parked car.

He left without reporting the accident and was tracked down at his Makiki home after a witness reported his license number to police. At the time, Yoshimura insisted the accident occurred as he was leaving work at KHON-TV.

He later paid a $35 fine for leaving the scene of an accident.

After the luncheon, the Maui-born Yoshimura said the Neighbor Islands will play a critical role in the election. He believes the likely candidates for governor and lieutenant governor already have firm bases of support on O'ahu that could cancel each another out. That could leave the outcome of the election in the hands of Neighbor Island voters, who may not be all that familiar with the candidates at this early stage of the campaign.

Yoshimura said he has not organized campaign committees on the Neighbor Islands yet, and for now is focusing fund-raising efforts on Maui and O'ahu. A Sept. 7 fund-raiser in Wailuku is being hosted by family friend and Maui businessman Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi.

Yoshimura said his two priorities for Maui: fixing highway problems before the island experiences O'ahu-style traffic jams and establishing a four-year university.