Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Tamayo should withdraw
or face discipline


State Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo says she will remain a candidate for re-election while on active duty with the Army in Iraq.

WHEN the Pennsylvania state legislature convened last year, one senator's empty chair was draped with a yellow ribbon. Sen. John Pippy had been called into active duty with the Army reserves for up to a year and departed for Iraq soon after being sworn in as a legislator. If Hawaii state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, a member of the Hawaii National Guard, has a similar vision after going on active duty for service in Iraq, it is an illusion.

Unlike Pippy, who says he was "shocked" at being called to active duty, Tamayo volunteered for active service, which began Monday. Military rules specifically forbid soldiers and sailors from running for or holding public office while on voluntary active duty. Tamayo, who faces opposition from three Waipahu-Ewa candidates in the Democratic primary election, should obtain Pentagon permission to stay on the ballot, withdraw from her race for re-election or seek discharge from active duty.

Several sitting state lawmakers have been called up by the reserves, forcing them to miss legislative votes. An Aug. 2 directive by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz allows legislators to remain in office if they are "under a call or order to active duty that specifies a period of active duty of 270 days or less."

Pippy's circumstance, like that of Tamayo, was unusual because he was activated during his campaign. An Army deputy general counsel barred Pippy from continuing his candidacy, and it took a waiver from Wolfowitz for Pippy, a Republican, to remain on the ballot.

Pippy turned the campaign over to his wife, won by a 2-1 ratio, and was placed on legislative leave after being sworn in last March on a one-day leave from the military. He returned to the Senate after being deactivated in January.

The Wolfowitz directive clarified the Pentagon's policy, but not in a way that permits a Tamayo candidacy while she is on active duty. It requires that any activated soldier obtain Pentagon permission to remain a candidate or withdraw the candidacy, regardless of whether the candidate is an incumbent.

State Attorney General Mark Bennett says no state law prohibits Tamayo from continuing her candidacy. Pippy's case demonstrated there also is no federal law that could support a lawsuit against her candidacy. A federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a suit challenging Pippy's candidacy, ruling that the plaintiffs had no constitutional standing to pursue a claim under general military law.

Pippy defended his decision to remain on the ballot and then be given a leave of absence in the Pennsylvania Senate, telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "The voters made an informed decision. They knew about my situation and decided that in times like these they wanted someone who understands what it's like to be a soldier."

The same may be true regarding Tamayo, who said, "I enlisted because I have a strong desire to serve our country and state, and as a soldier. I am proud of what I do."

Those are laudable qualities of patriotism and bravery, but her decision does not come without risk. The Wolfowitz directive states that any member of the armed forces violating it may be subject to "disciplinary or adverse administrative action."




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