McDermott decriesThe death of U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink has served to unify the Hawaii Democratic Party as it heads toward the November general election, party leaders say.
Dems using Mink
Democrats urge voters to electLegacy vote
Mink as a tribute to her
Congressional group to attend Mink's services
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But her Republican challenger Bob McDermott says the democratic party should be ashamed of itself for using Mink's death for political purposes in a last-ditch effort to cling to power.
"They won't let her rest in peace," McDermott said yesterday by telephone from Washington, D.C., where he is raising funds for his 2nd District candidacy. "She should be treated with dignity and her name should not be tossed around like some commodity in the name of clutching onto power," said the Republican congressional candidate.
Mink died Saturday after a monthlong hospitalization for viral pneumonia. President Bush today praised her work, saying he's saddened by news of her death. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends," Bush said this morning. "Patsy Mink fought tirelessly for the causes she supported, and our nation is grateful to her for her long record of public service."
The 12-term Democrat was expected to easily win another term, and Democratic Party leaders are asking voters still to support her in November.
Her name will remain on the November ballot along with McDermott, a state representative from the Salt Lake-Aliamanu-Aiea district, Libertarian Jeff Mallan and Natural Law candidate Nicholas Bedworth.
McDermott was upset over calls by some Democrats, including Hawaii's senior Sen. Daniel Inouye, who suggested that voters should honor Mink's legacy by voting for her in the general election.
"Sadly, her voice has been stilled, but we are the ones who have to carry on the spirit of Patsy," Inouye said yesterday. "I think that this coming campaign, you'll hear much about Patsy. She will be a guiding light," Inouye said.
Inouye said Saturday, hours after Mink's death, that he hoped voters "will indicate at the polls their sense of gratitude to her" and honor Mink by voting for her.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said, "I believe and I hope that there will be a tribute to Patsy's leadership that will be reflected in that vote" in the November election.
Earlier yesterday, at a meeting of state union leaders attended by prominent Democrats, Inouye said he realizes a victory by Mink would prompt a special election that state elections officials have estimated will cost taxpayers $2 million. "But I would prefer to spend money to ensure Hawaii gets the best voice possible," he said.
McDermott said Inouye is "telling people to throw their vote away" and the talk of having a special election angered him. "The people of Hawaii are not stupid and I predict that at the end of the day they're not going to throw their vote away," McDermott, adding that "I'm running against a ghost."
Mink's death leaves the U.S. House of Representatives with three vacancies, though it does not affect the balance of power.
If Mink is re-elected, the seat will be declared vacant and a special election will be called to choose a successor at least 60 days after the general election. Elections officials have said they will need 120 days to prepare and hold the election, putting it in March.
The special election would be open to anybody, with no provision for a runoff. Former Gov. John Waihee and unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Case already have been mentioned as likely Democratic candidates.
Inouye said yesterday no names of potential candidates have been mentioned to him, though he had heard of the speculation. Theoretically, both could run, but party officials are expected to seek unity behind a single candidate.
"I believe the party stands united today and will go into the general election united," Inouye said.
A victory by McDermott would make the issue of a special election moot, but whether the Republican Party will rally behind him in the general remains to be seen.
McDermott has been alienated from party leadership since late last year when he called for state GOP Chairman Micah Kane to resign in a spat over what McDermott said was possible party fund-raising at the state Capitol.
Mink's candidacy also faces a court challenge from her primary opponent.
Little-known perennial candidate Steve Tataii, said he plans to push forward with a protest filed Friday with the Hawaii Supreme Court, arguing that he is the only "qualified" Democrat and his name should replace Mink's on the November ballot because the congresswoman's condition was kept a secret from voters.
Tataii would have been declared winner of the Democratic nomination if Mink had died before the Sept. 21 primary election, and party officials could have replaced her on the ballot if she had died two days earlier.
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A congressional delegation will be flown to Honolulu to attend services for U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, which will probably be held Friday at the state Capitol rotunda, according to Democratic Party leaders.
will attend Minks services
"Plans are being made in the House of Representatives to requisition an aircraft to take a congressional delegation to Hawaii a special memorial group," said U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said plans for the services are 90 percent complete.
The official announcement would come from the governor's office, the Democrats said.
"The speaker of the House is going to send an official congressional delegation from Washington, most likely Thursday, for services here," Abercrombie said.
"Despite the logistical difficulties and the scheduling difficulties for members, I think there'll be an incredible number of members out here."
Mink died Saturday at Straub Clinic & Hospital after battling viral pneumonia for nearly a month, which she developed after contracting chickenpox.
She had been hospitalized since Aug. 30.
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