[ OUR OPINION ]
Patsy Takemoto Mink forged an outstanding career in politics with her tenacious battles for civil rights, education and environmental protection by breaking through the walls of an arena that women and minorities had not penetrated before. With her death yesterday, Hawaii has lost a dedicated public servant whose string of "firsts" marked the opening of the halls of power to those who had previously been denied entry.
Death silences one
of nations strongest
voices for equality
THE ISSUECongresswoman Patsy T. Mink, a fixture in Hawaii's political life for nearly 50 years, died yesterday.
Mink was the first Asian-American woman to practice law in Hawaii, the first of her race and gender elected to the state Legislature and the first to be elected to Congress. As a pioneer, she became an advocate for others like her, playing a key role in passage of Title IX legislation that forbade gender discrimination at educational institutions. The emergence of women's athletics as a direct result of Title IX and her fight to retain the law after it was threatened is a testament to Mink's devotion to equal rights for women.
It is regrettable that confusion and speculation surrounded the congresswoman at the conclusion of an impressive career that spanned nearly a half-century. The announcement Friday that Mink, who had been hospitalized with pneumonia for nearly a month, might not be able to serve threw the election for the 2nd District post into disarray.
Mink's family had been uncommunicative about her condition. Although their desire to protect the congresswoman from scrutiny through an emotionally trying period is understandable, her public status and her standing for re-election should have tipped the scales toward more disclosure.
As matters now lie, much remains to be sorted out. Because she had not withdrawn from the race, Mink's name will remain on the general election ballot. If she wins, a special election -- which could take at least four months to arrange and cost taxpayers about $2 million -- will have to be conducted. Meanwhile, Hawaii will be without one of its representatives when such crucial subjects as a resolution to authorize war with Iraq are being debated in the Republican-controlled House.
For Democrats, the political fallout will involve countering suspicions that the party manipulated the circumstances of Mink's announcement, even though the way the situation played out does not work to its advantage. If Mink had exited the race before a key deadline Thursday, the party could have picked a candidate to replace her. How the party will handle the congressional race now will be a sensitive issue.
For now, Hawaii will mourn. Mink was a passionate, hard-working and intelligent benefactor for the state. She will be missed.
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