Updated at 7:20 p.m., Thursday, May 30, 2002
Mayor Harris withdraws from governor's race; Hirono jumps back in
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer
|Mayor Jeremy Harris announced today that he will not seek the governor's seat. The surprise decision left many questions unanswered, including who would step in as the Democratic Party's front-runner for the nomination. Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, quickly returned to the race after the mayor's announcement.
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"I am here to announce I will not be running for governor of the state of Hawai'i," said Harris.
Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, who had dropped out of the race to run for mayor, quickly announced that she was back in the governor's contest.
Harris blamed "bumps in the road" in his campaign and "a year of bad publicity" that hurt his campaign and placed him 22 points behind Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle, according to recent polls.
He said he cannot beat Lingle and was stepping aside for someone else from the Democratic Party who can win.
Speaking on Maui, Lingle said she wouldn't speculate on who might possibly step in as the Democratic standard-bearer or what drove Harris to his decision. She said her polls showed her ahead, but would not say by how much.
Harris said he plans to remain in politics and serve out his term as mayor. That means a special election that had been planned won't be held afterall, leaving mayoral candidates disappointed and scrambling for options.
Harris, who was the front-running Democratic candidate, made the announcement in front of City Hall surrounded by city officials and supporters.
Harris began informing his inner circle this morning that he had decided not to run, supporters said.
Harris has been dogged by revelations of illegal contributions to his 2000 re-election campaign, and by allegations that campaign officials circumvented contribution limits by attributing donations to people who never made them.
The state Campaign Spending Commission requested a criminal probe of the allegations, which the city Prosecutors Office is now conducting.
His candidacy was also challenged in court based on the state's resign-to-run requirement, but he was cleared to run in that case.
The mayor's announcement opens opportunities for others who have their eyes on the governor's office, including Hirono and Democrats Ed Case and D.G. "Andy" Anderson. Congressman Neil Abercrombie's name has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
Harris' decision and who could replace him in the race will likely be the hot topic of conversation when the Democrats convene their state convention this weekend in Waikiki.
Lieutenant governor returns to race
Hirono, who dropped out of the governors race in November to run for Honolulu mayor, returned to the governors race 30 minutes after Harris announced he wont run for governor.
At the time that I made my decision to run for mayor, I weighed all of the alternatives, I made my decision on how best I could serve the people, she said.
With this astounding news by the mayor not to run for governor, Ive done the same thing, she said. Ive weighed the alternatives and Ive made the best decision on how I can serve the people of this state.
'Andy' Anderson reacts
Democratic gubernatorial candidate D.G. Andy Anderson said he did not accept Harris explanation for withdrawing from the race at face value.
I know from my own experience in the past that trailing in polls at this point in a race is nothing to be alarmed about, said Anderson, calling Harris a friend.
I was honestly looking forward to a spirited debate with him on the issues facing us. I think the uncertainties over problems hes faced in the last few months may have made a difference, may have made it more difficult to continue, he said.
Anderson said Harris withdrawal will help his own campaign.
This move makes more campaign supporters who are my friends available. Theyre free agents again and Im going to bring them back into my camp, he said.
Anderson said he expects many names -- including former Gov. John Waihee and banker Walter Dods -- to be floated as possible gubernatorial candidates.
Im almost certain some in our party will once again put the chess board back on the table and begin looking for a way to manipulate and move the pawns around again to suit themselves, he said. My strategy wont change. I believe I can win.
Mayoral candidates out in cold
Former City Councilman Mufi Hannemann is among the candidates for mayor who now have no race to run.
Well, were obviously very disappointed," Hannemann said. "We were poised to win this race. Every poll had us in front. We have garnered the most endorsements so far. Weve also raised the most money and we were looking forward to a spirited campaign in which the issues were going to be discussed for the city.
Advertiser staff writers Robbie Dingeman, Scott Ishikawa and Mike Leidemann contributed to this report.