Friday, August 27, 2004

Deployed legislator
to address her future

State Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo said yesterday that she has made a decision about whether she will continue to seek re-election at a time she has been deployed to active military duty, but will not disclose it until Sunday.

"After taking into account the many issues that affect my situation, I have made a decision about what I am going to do," she said in a statement that also said she would hold a news conference at the state Capitol on Sunday afternoon.

Tamayo (D, Waipahu-Ewa) was among some 2,000 Hawaii National Guard members who reported for active duty last week to begin training in an 18-month deployment that will include duty in Iraq.

She has filed nomination papers for re-election to a second two-year term and faces three opponents in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary election. If she wins, she would face Republican Trevor Koch in the general election.

Tamayo, who volunteered for deployment, said last week she is confident she would be able to continue providing her constituents a high level of service even while deployed, considering the high level of communications even in Iraq.

One of her Democratic opponents, Rida Cabanilla, said yesterday that Tamayo should give up her candidacy.

"When you go into a war zone, you cannot moonlight. It's a 24/7 job, and you have to do what the Army wants. It's an autocratic society, not a democratic society," said Cabanilla, a registered nurse and a major in the Army Reserve.

Meanwhile, another state lawmaker who could find himself in the same situation said there are no laws prohibiting Tamayo from retaining her House seat while on active duty in Iraq.

Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City), a Hawaii Army National Guard officer who has not been called up, said he checked with state and federal officials who concluded that a National Guard member ordered to active duty may continue to hold a state political office, as long as state law permits it.

Takai deflected several questions about why someone should be collecting their salary for a job they are barred from performing.

Takai, who is unopposed for re-election, obtained a copy of a Department of Defense directive that bars active-duty soldiers from holding a state office, but with an exception for reservists called to active duty.

While the directive does not permit the soldier to exercise functions of the office while on active duty, "taking an oath of office and occupying a legislative seat do not constitute exercising the functions of office," Takai said in a statement.

Takai noted the case of Pennsylvania's four-term state Rep. John Pippy, a Republican who was given a waiver by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to continue his campaign for state senator last year after his Army Reserve unit was called up.



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