No HGEA backing yet for Iwase, Aila
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
By Derrick DePledge
The Hawai'i Government Employees Association, the state's largest labor union, has chosen not to make an endorsement in the Democratic primary for governor between former Mililani state Sen. Randall Iwase and Wai'anae harbormaster William Aila Jr.
Russell Okata, the union's executive director, said the union may still endorse before the September primary but for now was not making a recommendation to its more than 42,000 members.
"I think I'm safe to say that HGEA will be working with the Democratic candidate," Okata said.
The HGEA and others in the labor movement had been courting Big Island Mayor Harry Kim to run for governor as a Democrat, but Kim decided against a campaign last month.
Iwase, who has been endorsed by the Hawai'i AFL-CIO and several other unions, had been hoping for the powerful HGEA's backing. But he said he did not consider the union's decision a setback.
"It would have been nice to have that," Iwase said, adding that the HGEA is part of the larger Hawai'i AFL-CIO. "I'm pleased that the membership will be given the opportunity to vote their choice in the primary election. We can go and solicit their support."
Aila said the decision could be a plus for his campaign.
"It means that they're not — well, this is my opinion — that they're not in favor of Randy and they don't know enough about me, so it gives me an opportunity to continue to work," he said.
Both Iwase and Aila are seen as underdogs against Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has raised more than $5.8 million for her re-election campaign and had a 73 percent job approval rating from voters in June.
The HGEA also has chosen not to endorse in the Democratic primary in the 2nd Congressional District, where several top Democrats are running to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Case is challenging U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary for Senate. The HGEA has endorsed Akaka.
Reach Derrick DePledge at email@example.com.