Clerk disqualifies Caldwell from run for City Council
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An election year drama that began July 22 ended yesterday when the City Clerk's Office disqualified state Rep. Kirk Caldwell from the race against Duke Bainum for the City Council seat being vacated by Ann Kobayashi.
Job: Partner, Ashford & Wriston LLP
Background: Born in Waipahu; raised in Hilo; married 27 years to Donna Tanoue; daughter, Maya
Education: Tufts University (1975); Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (1978); University of Hawaii, William S. Richardson School of Law (1984)
Political: First elected to state House, 24th District (Manoa), in 2002; re-elected 2004, 2006; served as House majority leader, 2007-08
With no other candidates in the race, Bainum, who lost in the 2004 mayor's race to Mufi Hannemann, would win the seat by default.
Caldwell said he has no plans to appeal.
City Clerk Denise De Costa ruled that Caldwell did not formally withdraw from his state House race before filing for the City Council seat. Her ruling was based on a declaration from the state Elections Office that Caldwell officially resigned the day after submitting his nomination papers for the city office.
Kobayashi's last-minute decision to run for mayor set off election chaos, with candidates scrambling to file for her seat. Caldwell, who has served as House majority leader the past two years, entered the race at the urging of Hannemann.
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Former City Councilman Duke Bainum, who lost to Mufi Hannemann in the 2004 Honolulu mayor's race, has a clear path back to the Council after the city clerk disqualified his only competitor in the race for the Manoa-Moiliili-Kapahulu seat.
City clerks disqualified Caldwell’s candidacy for the Honolulu Council City seat but Caldwell accepts the clerks’ decision.
State Rep. Kirk Caldwell's candidacy was invalidated yesterday after City Clerk Denise De Costa ruled he had improperly withdrawn from his House race and was, in effect, running for two offices at once.
Caldwell said he has no plans to challenge the ruling.
With no other candidates in the race, Bainum would win the seat by default, barring unforeseen circumstances. The vacancy was created when incumbent Ann Kobayashi stepped down to challenge Hannemann as he bids for a second four-year term.
"The circumstances of Mr. Caldwell's filing created a cloud over the upcoming election," Bainum said yesterday in a written statement. "Today's ruling by the clerk removes this cloud.
"We are pleased the election laws have been validated. ... This allows the people to focus on the important issues of this campaign."
Caldwell, who had asked one of his own supporters to challenge his candidacy to ensure its validity, said he had no immediate political plans but will serve out the remainder of his House term, which expires in November.
"We'll have to see," Caldwell said when asked whether he planned to seek office in the future. "I definitely love public service. It's a passion for me."
Kobayashi's last-minute decision to run for mayor July 22 -- the deadline to declare candidacy -- set off election chaos, with potential candidates scrambling to file for her seat.
Bainum submitted his paperwork with the required signatures in time to meet the 4:30 p.m. deadline. At 4:29 p.m., Caldwell submitted his petition with 18 signatures. Twenty minutes later, De Costa informed him that only 14 signatures were valid but 15 are needed to file. A Manoa resident working in the City Clerk's Office signed the petition to ensure Caldwell had enough signatures.
There also was a question as to whether he properly notified the state Office of Elections of his intent to withdraw from his House race.
Caldwell's campaign verbally informed the City Clerk's Office on July 22 of his intent to withdraw from the House race, De Costa said in her ruling. The Clerk's Office informed the state elections office of the withdrawal by phone and e-mail that day, and was told that the withdrawal was proper and Caldwell could file for the City Council seat.
Caldwell submitted his formal written withdrawal from his House race on July 23.
The next day, the Elections Office gave formal notice to the state Democratic Party that Caldwell had withdrawn on July 23.
Based on that declaration by the Elections Office, De Costa said her office "reluctantly" found that Caldwell technically had not resigned on Tuesday and was in two races at once.
"I knew that it had one way or another to go, and I was hoping that they would rule in my favor," Caldwell said. "I believe that under the law I gave proper notice of withdrawal. I think having the City Clerk's Office notify the state elections officials is about as official as it could possibly be."
De Costa said her ruling was based on Caldwell's withdrawal notification, which made the issue on the number of signatures moot.
Caldwell, who has served as the House majority leader the past two years, sought the Council seat at the behest of Hannemann, whom he supports.
"It is unfortunate that residents of District 5 will not have a legitimate opportunity to decide who will represent them on the City Council," Hannemann campaign spokesman A.J. Halagao said in a written statement. "Kirk Caldwell is a truly dedicated public servant and has been an effective leader."
The challenge from Caldwell supporter Lex Smith was filed July 25. A second challenge, filed by Bainum's attorney, Todd Eddins, on behalf of Manoa resident Amy Mizuno, challenged Caldwell's signatures, his withdrawal and his alleged preferential treatment by the Elections Office.
It is unclear whether De Costa will rule on that challenge or whether it is irrelevant.
De Costa did not return messages seeking further comment.