By Derrick DePledge
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is running for governor as an independent, almost lured an interesting recruit as his lieutenant governor: Dick Tomey.
The popular former University of Hawaii football coach pulled papers at the state Office of Elections last week but reluctantly bowed out over concerns about his residency.
The state Constitution requires governors and lieutenant governors to be residents for five years immediately preceding the election. Tomey owns a Kahala home but he said he lived in San Jose in 2009.
Tomey said he was advised that his residency might be challenged and he did not want it to become an issue during the campaign. He said he would help with Hannemann’s independent bid.
“I think after consultation with some legal people I realized it wasn’t a slam dunk,” he said. “So I’ve decided not to do it and I’m still very enthused about Mufi’s candidacy and excited to help him when I can.”
Tomey would have been an unconventional choice, but a promotional coup for Hannemann and the fledgling Hawaii Independent Party. Frank Fasi, the last credible independent candidate for governor, plucked entertainer Danny Kaleikini as his running mate for the Best Party in 1994.
Tomey, 75, is a beloved figure in Hawaii sports. He was the UH football coach from 1977 to 1986. His 63-46-3 record at UH is second best behind former coach June Jones. He also coached at Arizona and San Jose State and was an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers.
Tomey, who was inducted into the UH Sports Circle of Honor in 2005, has worked as an analyst on UH football broadcasts.
“He would have made an excellent candidate for lieutenant governor,” Hannemann said. “He’s a strong and proven leader. He loves Hawaii, always has, whether he lived here or not. And thirdly, I think his familiarity with the University of Hawaii would have been a nice bonus to have in a running mate.”
Hannemann said he understands Tomey’s concerns about whether his residency might be challenged. “So I lose a potential running mate but I gain maybe an even stronger supporter now,” he said.
Michelle Del Rosario, the chairwoman of the Hawaii Independent Party, said the party is looking at several possible running mates for Hannemann but is not ready to publicly release any names.
The deadline to file for elective office this year is June 3.