The mayor of Maui County said Wednesday that he is “very strongly inclined” to run for the second-highest office in Hawaii.
Alan Arakawa, whose third and final term as mayor expires next year, told Civil Beat that the only thing that might change his mind is a family illness or car accident.
“I hedge only because circumstances may change, but barring that I am planning to run for lieutenant governor,” he said. “My intention is to run for lieutenant governor.”
Arakawa said he does not think Gov. David Ige will be re-elected, and that voters will instead pick Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.
“Bernard Carvalho is going to run for the governor’s office, and he will probably be the next governor,” Arakawa said.
Carvalho could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He is also completing his second and final term in 2018.
Arakawa served as Maui County mayor from 2002 to 2006 and returned to the post in 2011 and was re-elected in 2014. His background includes serving as both a United Public Workers chief steward and a Hawaii Government Employees Association representative.
Formerly a Republican, he said he had not sought a partisan office since 1994. County mayors and councils are nonpartisan.
Arakawa said he would run as a Democrat. Carvalho and Ige are also Democrats.
Ige has said he will seek re-election. But his lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, is expected to announce later this year his intention to run for Maui mayor.
Arakawa said he wants to make the lieutenant governor job useful, something that previous governors have not done. He said his close relationship with Carvalho would make for a good team.
“We meet constantly, we have very, very similar types of operations, and we bounce things off of each other so our communities are working well,” he said. “That does not happen at the state level.”
Arakawa said he wants to make the state Department of Health a more proactive agency, rather than one that seems to react too late to potential crisis like rat lungworm disease.
“In my estimation, very few departments, if any, are running the way they should be running, and we have to deal with a lot of those departments at the county level,” he said.
Arakawa said he did not know who else might be considering a run for lieutenant governor. He also dismissed recent criticism of him for saying “there’s no such thing as sacred rocks.”
The mayor was discussing Maui County’s removal of thousands of tons of rocks that were washed downstream as part of a huge flood in Maui’s Iao Valley last year.
While respecting all island cultures, especially the indigenous one, Arakawa said his priority is to ensure the health and safety of communities.
Republican Linda Lingle, a former Maui mayor, is the only neighbor island lawmaker to have been elected governor.
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