Sunday, September 29, 2002

Election 2002
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Case, Hannemann
potential contenders
in a special election

By Rod Antone

Patsy Mink remains on the ballot for the general election for her congressional seat, which means people can still vote for her. And according to political analyst Dan Boylan, many of Mink's constituents will do just that.

» Liberal voice silenced
» Hawaii politicians express sorrow
» Female athletes will miss Mink's passion for equality

"I think that will probably be the case, she'll win in death," Boylan said. "I can't imagine a district as Democratic as that one not paying tribute to her that way."

Mink easily won the Democratic 2nd District primary without campaigning the last three weeks, beating her only opponent, Steve Tataii, by more than 53,000 votes. If in death she beats Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott in November, there would be a special election held early next year. There would be no primary and the top vote-getter would win the seat.

Former gubernatorial candidate Ed Case, who lost to Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono in the primary, and former City Councilman Mufi Hannemann, who ran against Mink for Congress in 1990, are mentioned as possible candidates. But both declined to comment on whether they would run.

"I'm certainly aware of what people are saying, but I feel very strongly that this is not at all the time for politics," said Case yesterday.

"My family and I want to send out our heartfelt sympathies to John (Mink) and the rest of Patsy's ohana," Hannemann said.

Other potential candidates for Mink's seat include Republican Dalton Tanonaka, who lost in the primary to former judge James Aiona, state Senate President Robert Bunda, Senate Vice President Colleen Hanabusa, former Gov. John Waihee, and former state Sen. Malama Solomon.

Boylan also points out that whoever loses the race for governor and lieutenant governor in November will become a very strong candidate for Congress.

"If Matt Matsunaga and Mazie lose, I could see Matt jumping into that," said Boylan. "He's always wanted to go back to Washington, D.C., to continue his dad's work ... and Mazie can't be counted out, either."

"On the other side, if Linda Lingle lost the election and she went after it, she would certainly have a shot at it. Wow, would she have a shot at it."

If Mink had passed away before the primary, her Democratic opponent, Steve Tataii, would have been the party's nominee by default. If she had died during the five-day period between the primary vote and Thursday, Democratic Party officials could have replaced her on the November ballot with a candidate of their choosing.

Neither family members or party officials have said whether she had been able to communicate directly with anyone, but if she had been conscious, she could have withdrawn after the primary because of her medical condition.

But that unlikely decision would have left the party with no candidate on the ballot, giving the election to her Republican opponent, McDermott, or a third-party opponent.

Because she died after the Thursday deadline, state law requires that her name remain on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, and votes for her will be counted as if she were a living candidate.

State law allows the governor to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy, but a House vacancy has to be filled by election under the state constitution.

In addition to Mink and McDermott, Libertarian Jeff Mallan and Natural Law candidate Nicholas Bedworth are on the ballot in November.

Offering condolences to the family and friends of Mink, McDermott said, "It is a very sad day for us all, for the Mink family, for her supporters and for all of Hawaii. At this time of tragedy, we offer our thoughts and prayers to Patsy's family and loved ones."

If Mink is re-elected, her seat will be vacant until a special election, expected in March. If one of the other candidates wins the general election, the seat will remain vacant only until the end of the current term on Jan. 3.

The last vacancy in the Hawaii congressional delegation resulted from the death of Sen. Spark Matsunaga on April 15, 1990. Then-Rep. Daniel Akaka was appointed by then-Gov. Waihee to serve the remainder of Matsunaga's term.

Mink then won a special election to replace Akaka in the House.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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