Asking Harry The Big Question

Dan Boylan
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Wednesday - September 28, 2005

As my 11 regular readers know, I have some pet projects. Herewith, I revisit one of them: whether Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim will run as a Democrat for governor next year.

I know. I can hear 10 of my 11 readers say: “Again? Boylan, are you on his payroll? This is the third time in as many months that you’ve written about this guy.”

True. But he’s an interesting guy. More to the point, as a certified professional political analyst (credentials e-mailed on request), I’m scared to death the Democrats aren’t going to come up with a candidate for governor next year. They’ve floated the names of a retired banker, a retired state senator, a retired police chief, and a retired general. No one has caught any wind in their sails.

But there’s still Harry. And a $55 Hawaiian Airlines fare sale made Hilo affordable a couple of weekends ago, so I made the trip and sought an interview with the good mayor. Although I’d written about him twice before, I hadn’t talked with him at length since his first run for Hawaii County mayor in 2000.

“I have no political ambition,” says Kim. “I have no need to be governor. What factors would make me file for governor? Only if I felt it was what I should do. There has to be a reason for me to do it.”

Leaders of Hawaii’s Democrats, from Chair Brickwood Galuteria to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, want Kim to find a reason to run. They’d hoped he would make the decision by this month.

“I’ve told the party leaders not to wait for me,” says Kim. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t know when I’m going to do it. I understand it’s important to the party to know now. I know it’s already getting late. So I’ve told them: ‘Don’t let me screw you guys up.’”

Kim has other considerations: “I have a cabinet here in Hilo that depends on me. And in the last election the people of this Island gave me their trust. I don’t want to toy with that.”

Then there’s Kim’s health; he’s had a heart attack. “It was a fluky thing,” he insists. “There was some blockage, but I’m told they’re 97 percent sure it won’t happen again. My cholesterol is good. I have only 8 percent body fat. My blood pressure ranges between 125 and 130. I watch my weight, bike, swim, walk, eat right, and don’t drink or take drugs.”

Then there’s Kim’s age; he’s 68 years old. “It’s what I want to do vs. what I need to do,” he says. “At my age, I admit that I’d like to play a little, to be selfish.”

But Kim also feels that “certain things happen for reasons we don’t know. Mankind can’t know the whole. I do believe in missions in life. That’s what life is about. It’s what we’re here for.”

Will Kim run? On the basis of my conversation with him, I don’t think so. But should he find a mission - anytime before next July’s filing deadline, his name may make it onto the ballot.

Kim gives some hints about where his passions lie. The placard on the front of his desk has a piece of paper taped to it that reads “Think Peace.” “Peace on earth and good will toward men is the most important message there is,” he says. “And Hawaii has a special place in the world, where a harmonious interrelationships of our cultures are on display, nurtured by the warmest and kindest people in the world - the Hawaiians.”

Kim fears that Hawaii is losing “the most cherished values of its people. People with money are coming to Hawaii and are trying to change it. I tell you people: ‘Don’t let the world change you. Go change the damned world.‘We have to teach peace to balance the amount of time and effort spent by others to teach war.

“It will take a certain kind of leader to do that.”

Kim’s not ready to say that he’s that leader. “I would not argue that I’m better than Gov. Linda Lingle. I am different.”

The mission, of course, may find him. But it may have nothing to do with preaching peace.

As three hurricanes lined up in the Pacific headed Hawaii’s way last week, as rising gas prices threatened family budgets across the Islands, Harry Kim the highly successful former Hawaii County Civil Defense director, looked very attractive indeed. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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