Gathering Places



Resign-to-run rule
penalizes county officials

The recent Blair vs. Harris resign-to-run ruling is unfair and should be overturned by the Hawaii Supreme Court. It is unfair because it treats state and county officials differently.

Under Blair, state officials would be required to resign to run only in rare situations, while county officials running for state office would be forced to resign in every case. This has the potential to create biannual chaos in county government, causing vacancies, costly special elections and appointment of officials not elected by voters.

According to the Blair decision, determining whether a candidate must resign is a two-step process. First, an elected official contemplating a run for another office that has a term of service which begins before the official's current term ends must resign when he or she becomes a candidate. Second, Blair says a person becomes a candidate upon filing organizational papers for the new office with the Campaign Spending Commission. Both steps are unfair, particularly to county officials interested in state office.

The first part of the Blair test is easy when a politician seeks another elected position in the middle of his or her current term. However, in cases where an elected official in the final year of his term seeks other office, only county office holders are affected; state politicians are protected. That's because state terms begin in September, November or December while county terms begin in December or -- in the case of the City and County of Honolulu -- January. State politicians almost never will encounter an overlap. Thus, Blair never can be applied to a state official running for other state or county office and almost always would be applied to county officials running for state positions.

When the first part of the Blair test is present, resignation is triggered when the office holder becomes a candidate by filing organizational papers with the Campaign Spending Commission. This second part of the Blair test is unfair to elected officials subject to term limits and protects those who are not. According to the commission, a person must file before fund raising can occur. A candidate subject to term limits in the final term of office cannot continue to raise funds under previously filed papers because that person can no longer run for the office he holds. Therefore, to raise money, the term-limited candidate must submit papers for another office and instantly resign. In the case of county office holders, options that would not require resignation are virtually nonexistent.

State lawmakers would never need to resign to run because the first part of the Blair test would never apply. Even if it did, the second part would not require legislators to step down because they are not term limited. Thus, even if a lawmaker intended to run for a position that had a term overlap under the first part of the Blair test, he would not have to file new organizational papers with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Although I am not a party in the Blair case, it can be argued that the ruling speaks to my situation and my campaign for lieutenant governor. My current and final term as a City Council member overlaps the inauguration of the lieutenant governor by one month.

I will be a candidate for lieutenant governor this fall. If a court orders me to resign before my term is up, I will.

If Blair is upheld by the Hawaii Supreme Court, state and county officials must work together to make terms of elected office uniform throughout the state, thus eliminating incidental overlaps in terms of office, which serve as technical obstacles to county officials running for state office.

Jon Yoshimura is a member
of the Honolulu City Council.

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