NAHA--Despite an earlier denial that he would run for governor of Okinawa Prefecture, Denny Tamaki, named by the late Governor Takeshi Onaga as a possible successor, is now considering entering the race.

“I would like to take it seriously,” the 58-year-old Lower House lawmaker from the Liberal Party answered when the influential “All Okinawa” group asked about his intentions for the gubernatorial election on Aug. 20.

The All Okinawa group is a coalition of political parties opposing the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan in the prefecture to the Henoko district of Nago, also in the prefecture, which will be the key issue facing the next governor. The group formed the core support base for Onaga, a fierce opponent of the move, who died of pancreatic cancer on Aug. 8 at age 67.

Meanwhile, Shigenobu Asato, 48, former head of the Junior Chamber International Japan and a local business executive, announced on Aug. 19 that he will retract his candidacy.

Former Ginowan Mayor Atsushi Sakima, 54, has already announced his intention to run with the endorsement from the prefectural chapter of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is pushing for the Henoko relocation project. He recently quit the post.

Asato stepping aside leaves Sakima as the only conservative-leaning candidate, allowing the LDP to avoid a split within its voting bloc.

Tamaki, who represents the Okinawa No. 3 constituency, signaled his possible run earlier on Aug. 20, in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, saying, “Given the present circumstances, I have to give it serious thought.

“I am going to decide whether to run this week,” he said. “I am not turning away from the race.”

The All Okinawa group is expected to come together under the banner of Tamaki as its candidate if he opts to run.

The group’s committee to select a candidate met on the night of Aug. 19, unanimously agreeing that All Okinawa will join forces to back either Tamaki or Morimasa Goya, the other individual named by Onaga as his possible successor shortly before his death.

Goya, 69, a conservative and a top executive of a local business group, has been an Onaga supporter for many years.

The committee met with both Tamaki and Goya to ask about their intentions that night.

Goya refused to run and said, “I want to cooperate as a business leader and have high expectations for Tamaki,” according to a person knowledgeable about the interview.

Tamaki did not decline outright, although he did so the day earlier.

Tamaki said he will take it seriously and consult with his support group when he met with the selection committee.

The official campaign for the gubernatorial election starts from Sept. 13, with the vote taking place on Sept. 30. It was moved up from the initially scheduled November following Onaga's death.

(This article was written by Kazuyuki Ito and Ryuichi Yamashita.)