Second anti-casino candidate enters Yokohama mayoral race

City Councillor Hirotaka Ito has become the third candidate to throw his hat into the ring for the July 30 election for the Mayor of Yokohama, a major city being eyed by operators as a possible host for a large IR facility.

Like the first candidate to enter the race, former House of Representatives lawmaker Kazuyoshi Nagashima, Councillor Ito is making opposition to the casino plan his lead campaign promise.

“Although I am not recommended by any political party,” Ito explained at the launch of his campaign on Tuesday, “I have decided to become a candidate to improve city governance and to debate the issues with my colleagues, especially the casino issue.”

Ito had hoped to gain the full support of his own political party, the main opposition Democratic Party, but that prospect slipped away after local party leaders split between those who wished to endorse Ito and those who counseled sticking with incumbent Mayor Fumiko Hayashi.

Last year Mayor Hayashi was a proactive supporter of bidding for an IR license, but after the first anti-casino candidate arose to challenge her in January, she began to back away. She now describes her stance on the IR issue as “a blank slate.”

Mayor Hayashi, with the advantages of incumbency and the support of the ruling parties and main labor union federation, must at present be considered the strong favorite to prevail in the late July election.