• Kyodo

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At least seven independents had expressed their intention to run in the Aug. 31 Saitama gubernatorial election as of Tuesday, according to prefectural officials.

Campaigning to fill the post vacated by Yoshihiko Tsuchiya begins Thursday. Tsuchiya resigned last month over a political funds scandal.

The race — widely viewed as a dry run for the next House of Representatives general election, which may take place this fall — is expected to be close as the only political party backing a candidate is the Japanese Communist Party.

The candidates are expected to include Kiyoshi Ueda, 55, a Lower House member who left the opposition Democratic Party of Japan on Tuesday, and Akira Shimazu, 60, former vice minister for public management, home affairs, posts and telecommunications.

Others are House of Councilors member Takujiro Hamada, 61; former Cabinet Office official Mariko Bando, 56; former Saitama Prefectural Assemblywoman Misako Takahara, 59; former Saitama Municipal City Assemblyman Tomosuke Sugisaki, 40; and business executive Morio Kato, 62.

The JCP has endorsed Takahara.

Tsuchiya resigned July 18 over a scandal in which his daughter Momoko Ichikawa was arrested and indicted on suspicion of misappropriating 116 million yen in political funds donated to Tsuchiya between 1998 and 2002.