Race to replace Kaneshiro as prosecutor takes shape

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With the Honolulu prosecutor’s office in legal turmoil, the race to take over for Keith Kaneshiro is beginning to take shape.

Defense attorney Megan Kau announced Tuesday that she’s running for that office.

Kau has the support of former prosecutor Peter Carlisle. Her likely opponent also has an impressive resume, retired judge and former U.S. Attorney Steve Alm.

Carlisle says he wants to spend more time with his wife and will not run for prosecutor. Now he’s backing Kau to run for the position currently held by Kaneshiro, who went on paid leave after receiving a target letter from federal investigators.

Kau says she’s running, in part, because so many people in the prosecutor’s office have asked her to take over.

“I have been asked for help by the current employees, staff members, deputies, and investigators. The current administration has discriminated against them, retaliated against them, and asked them to do unethical things,” said Kau.

She’ll likely be running against Steve Alm, who says he’s seriously interested. He was a deputy prosecutor for nine years, became a U.S. attorney for seven years, and then served as a judge for 15 years.

“He probably has the edge on the more direct resume, the bigger resume. I think if he runs, he will be quite formidable,” said political analyst John Hart.

He says it’s a bit unusual for a defense attorney to seek the prosecutor’s office. Kau points out that she was a deputy prosecutor from 2006 to 2010. And her job now puts her in a good spot to know what changes are needed.

“Because I am a defense attorney, I see what all of those deputies do wrong. I want to teach them to do right. I don’t want to get rid of them, I want them to learn,” said Kau.

Hart says Kau will add a fresh perspective. And both candidates can tout changes to the current administration.

“It will be a matter of which change do you want? Frankly, I think this will be a lot more about personality and character than it will be a about policy,” said Hart.

We reached out to Keith Kaneshiro’s attorney to see if Kaneshiro plans to run again. There are no term limits. We have not heard back.

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