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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 5, 2006

Kanno won't seek re-election to Senate

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer


The Legislature yesterday bid farewell to several members who have decided not to seek re-election.

In the House: Rep. Dennis Arakaki, D-30th (Moanalua, Kalihi Valley, 'Alewa), Rep. Helene Hale D-4th (Puna), Rep. Ezra Kanoho, D-15th (Lihu'e, Koloa), Rep. Brian Schatz, D-25th (Makiki, Tantalus), and Rep. William "Bud" Stonebraker R-17th (Hawai'i Kai, Kalama Valley).

In the Senate: Sen. Bob Hogue, R-24th (Kailua, Kane'ohe), and Sen. Brian Kanno, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele).

Schatz and Hogue are giving up their seats to run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Case.

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State Sen. Brian Kanno

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State Sen. Brian Kanno, the chairman of the Senate Labor Committee and one of the most consistent allies of organized labor, told his colleagues yesterday that he would not run for re-election this year.

Kanno, D-19th (Kapolei, Makakilo, Waikele), said he will complete a master's degree in social work from the University of Hawai'i-Manoa this year and would seek a job in the field. He now works part time at Child & Family Service, a human services group.

In a speech on the Senate floor on the last day of session, Kanno thanked those who backed him during his 14 years in the Senate but said he wanted to put his family first. He especially recognized his wife, Lorrie, who was in the gallery.

Kanno said he lost his father, who was a union electrician, and his mother-in-law within the past few years and realized that life was short. "After much deliberation with my wife, the decision I made was about putting my family first," he said.

Kanno was first elected in 1992 and has chaired or co-chaired the agriculture, consumer protection and judiciary committees. Considered among the most reliable supporters of organized labor at the state Legislature, he said he has tried to help businesses make the transition from sugar and pineapple plantations while protecting worker rights.

Kanno mentioned his work this session on a bill that would temporarily lower the amount businesses pay into the unemployment insurance fund and extend unemployment benefits to workers from 26 weeks to 30 weeks, the highest in the nation.

"For me, he's going to be sorely missed," said state Senate President Robert Bunda, D-22nd (North Shore, Wahiawa), who has counted on Kanno in Senate leadership struggles. "He is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of senator."

Kanno's departure could affect Senate leadership because he was among the faction that has kept Bunda in power.

The Hawai'i State Ethics Commission has charged Kanno with violating state law for trying to coerce Norwegian Cruise Line into rehiring or paying restitution to a cabin steward fired in 2004 for sexual harassment.

A contested-case hearing is scheduled for June. If the commission upholds the charge, it would be referred to the Senate president for review and any potential punishment, including censure, suspension or expulsion. It is unlikely that the Senate would take any action against Kanno as he is leaving office.

Kanno has declined to comment on the ethics charge and did not refer to it as a factor in his decision not to run for re-election. Republicans, and some Democrats, had considered Kanno vulnerable this year because of the ethics case.

Mike Gabbard, a former Honolulu City Council member, announced in March that he would run in the Republican primary in Senate District 19.

Reach Derrick DePledge at ddepledge@honoluluadvertiser.com.