Governor criticizes candidacy confusion
A last-minute rush to file before deadline prompted complaints of manipulation
» State looks at voting status of its chief election officer
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It's been a week since Hawaii's filing deadline for 2008 political candidates, and it's 99 days until the Nov. 4 election, yet state officials are still trying to figure out who can run in a couple of key races.
The confusion is an embarrassment to the state, says Gov. Linda Lingle.
Since last Tuesday's filing deadline, one candidate has been disqualified and at least two others are being challenged.
Adding to the confusion is state Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin.
The city clerk confirmed yesterday that Cronin was not a registered Hawaii voter until Friday.
That's a requirement to be hired for the job, but Cronin has been in the position since February.
The state Elections Commission is expected to take up the issue at a meeting Thursday.
"This is the kind of thing that you couldn't make up," said a disgusted Lingle, who monitored the election problems from the mainland while she was traveling last week.
She labeled the episode as "shocking and embarrassing."
Lingle also complained that Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz was allowed to intervene on behalf of one of his party's candidates during the confusion on filing deadline day.
The confusion last Tuesday started when city Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi announced that she would run for mayor against Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
The announcement was followed by a dash to the state elections office by potential candidates looking to fill her spot on the council and a vacated state House seat.
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Gov. Linda Lingle said the controversy and confusion surrounding last Tuesday's filing deadline for election candidates has been "shocking and embarrassing."
The Republican governor also took a shot at Hawaii Democrat Party Chairman Brian Schatz, who intervened on behalf of one of his party's candidates during the confusion on filing deadline day.
"Some political hack goes in and tells an elections official how to run an election and do something that was obviously wrong. ... The U.N. sends people around the world to make sure things like that don't happen," Lingle told reporters during an informal news conference yesterday at the state Capitol. It was her first public comments on the political chaos that ensued last week while she was traveling to out-of-state conferences.
As the 4:30 p.m. filing deadline approached last Tuesday, an assistant to Mayor Mufi Hannemann dashed down to the State Office Tower to file for the office vacated by Rep. Kirk Caldwell, who at the mayor's behest was running against Duke Bainum, Hannemann's opponent in the 2004 mayor's race.
The assistant, Chrystn Eads, did not have enough signatures for her nomination petition at 4:30 p.m., but supporters were lined up outside the elections office.
Schatz persuaded an election official to open the door so Eads could go outside to get enough signatures.
After a protest by the state Republican Party, state chief election officer Kevin Cronin ruled that Eads did not have enough signatures at the 4:30 p.m. deadline and voided her candidacy.
Cronin was in the elections office at the deadline, watching the events, but didn't take action until the appeal was filed.
Cronin defended the office's handling of the election challenge, saying that "the nomination papers that were filed were deemed to be insufficient and the candidate disqualified."
Schatz said yesterday the Democrats would respect whatever ruling they were given by the elections office.
Lingle's comments, Schatz said, "were a bit over the top."
"It seems fair and reasonable for party officials to argue on behalf of their candidates," Schatz said.
The Republicans, meanwhile, filed another protest yesterday saying that Caldwell actually abandoned his House race Thursday when he filed for the City Council and therefore the elections office should have given the Democrats the required three days to pick a replacement starting Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Cronin started the clock the next day, giving the Democrats until Saturday to pick a new candidate.
They selected Isaac Choy, an accountant and political ally to several House leaders.
The GOP says their candidate, party volunteer Jerilyn Jeffryes, should be the only candidate in the 24th District Manoa House race.
"It would be further manipulation of the system and political gamesmanship to allow Mr. Choy to remain on the ballot," said GOP chairman Willes Lee. "The Democratic party clearly missed the 72-hour deadline. It's wrong, it's outrageous and it's illegal."
The filing-deadline-day confusion started when city Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi announced that she would run against Hannemann for mayor. Former Councilman Bainum followed on her heels, filing to run for Kobayashi's seat. Caldwell, a Hannemann ally, announced he would run for the same seat, leaving his House seat open.