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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 20, 2004

GOP backs legislator despite arrest

By Lynda Arakawa and Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The leader of the Hawai'i Republican Party yesterday made it clear the party backs the reelection campaign of Maui Rep. Brian Blundell despite his arrest last week on a misdemeanor sexual assault charge.

Maui Rep. Brian Blundell

Meanwhile, it appears a few Democrats are interested in Blundell's job and could file nomination papers by 4:30 p.m. today, the deadline for candidates who want to get on this fall's election ballot.

"Right now I think we're going to be going into the election with Brian as our candidate and we will support him like we support all of our incumbents and candidates," GOP Chairman Brennon Morioka said. "We're going to back him fully."

Blundell, R-10th (W. Maui), was first elected to the House in 2002. Howard Luke, his attorney, said yesterday that Blundell "definitely" will run for re-election, adding that his client has received a number of calls of support. Blundell did not return calls for comment yesterday.

As of yesterday, no one had filed nomination papers to oppose Blundell. But Maui County Democratic chairman James "Kimo" Apana said several people have expressed an interest. He declined to identify them.

Apana said the party had been searching for candidates to run against Blundell before his arrest last week. Honolulu police arrested Blundell, 62, at 11:15 p.m. Thursday night on 3908 Paki Ave., at or near a Kapi'olani Park restroom. He was booked on one count of fourth-degree sexual assault and is scheduled to enter a plea in District Court Aug. 6. Blundell has said he was walking alone Thursday night and had an encounter with two men. He gave no details.

Morioka, at a press conference Saturday, had voiced concern for Blundell's personal welfare but fell short of emphatically backing his candidacy.

Yesterday, he said GOP officials have not discussed finding another Republican candidate to run for Blundell's seat.

Police spokeswoman Jean Motoyama said the arrest was made by a Waikiki crime-reduction unit which has been monitoring the area in response to residents' complaints about open lewdness. She declined to give details of the Blundell case.

Dean Ohira, 50, a Hawai'i Kai resident who visits the park every day, said: "I've seen lewd conduct in restrooms in this area, mainly dealing with the gay community. Unfortunately it happens frequently. I'm glad the undercover police are here."

Staff writer Peter Boylan contributed to this report.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com. Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com. Or reach either at 525-8070.