• Kyodo

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Campaigning officially kicked off Thursday for a special election for governor of Aomori Prefecture in a race made necessary when Morio Kimura quit over a sex scandal.

The main contenders in the June 29 election are expected to be Shingo Mimura, 47, an independent House of Representatives member who quit the Lower House to run in the election, and Hokuto Yokoyama, 39, a professor at Hirosaki Gakuin University, a close runnerup in the January election won by Kimura shortly before the scandal broke.

Mimura is backed by the ruling triumvirate of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party.

Yokoyama is supported by the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Independents’ Club.

The other candidates are Hiroaki Takayanagi, 33, a member of the prefectural standing committee of the Japanese Communist Party, and Hiroaki Kashiwaya, 48, a company president running as an independent.

Kimura resigned May 16 following a weekly tabloid’s report that he had obtained sexual favors from a female constituent who had consulted him on tax matters.

Kimura, a former Lower House member, was first elected Aomori governor in February 1995 and was re-elected last January to a third term with support from the three ruling parties.

The weekly news magazine Shukan Shincho carried a report in its Feb. 6 edition of an “adulterous sexual harassment scandal” involving the governor. In late February, he filed a libel suit against Shinchosha Co., which publishes the weekly.

Kimura resigned as governor, however, saying he wanted to break the impasse resulting from the allegations and would clarify his position through the lawsuit.

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