State of Hawaii

Supporters of several congressional candidates were out in force, waving signs yesterday afternoon at Castle Junction.

Voters pick Mink’s
replacement today

The special election is expected to draw
a higher turnout than one held on Nov. 30

By Craig Gima

Voters are casting ballots today for the fourth time in as many months to select someone to represent them in the 2nd Congressional District.

Candidates are waving signs, hopping on planes and going around Oahu by trolley to get every last supporter out to the polls before they close at 6 p.m.

The ballots will be counted tomorrow, and results are not expected to be announced until sometime in the afternoon.

The winner-take-all special election is to fill the two-year term of the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, who died Sept. 28, just after winning the primary on Sept. 21. Mink posthumously won re-election on Nov. 5.

Another special election, held Nov. 30, was to fill the five weeks remaining in her current term. That election, won by Democrat Ed Case, attracted a turnout of only about 13 percent of the 347,922 voters in the district, which covers Leeward, Windward and North Shore Oahu and the neighbor islands.

But unlike the Nov. 30 contest, today's election does not fall in the holiday shopping period and on the same day as a University of Hawaii football game, so turnout is expected to be higher.

The number of absentee votes cast is already more than double that of the Nov. 30 election.

There are 44 candidates on the ballot, but the top names appear to be Case, who narrowly lost the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and is a fiscal moderate with strength in Republican areas of the district; Matt Matsunaga, who is supported by public worker unions and is the son of former U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga; and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, who has portrayed herself as a liberal fighter who can "fill Patsy's shoes" and is the only one of the major candidates who actually lives in the district.

Leading Republican candidates are state Rep. Barbara Marumoto and former Rep. Bob McDermott, who lost to Mink in the general election. They hope the Democrats split the vote and allow one of them to get in.

However, the Republican field is also crowded with other elected officials and former elected officials who have regional strength on Maui, Oahu and the Big Island.

"We may pull an upset," said Brennon Morioka, the state GOP chairman, "if Republicans come out as much as they can and vote for a Republican candidate."

Political observers are watching the union vote closely.

Matsunaga has the endorsement of nearly all the public worker unions, including the 43,000-member Hawaii Government Employees Association and the 13,000-member Hawaii State Teachers Association.

The public worker unions have opposed Case and Hanabusa because of their support in the state Legislature of civil service and health fund reform, measures that the unions see as takeaways.

"The union vote is going to be interesting to see how they're going to turn their members out," said Andy Winer, director of the Democrats Coordinated Campaign.

The unions have established get-out-the-vote efforts, but Winer notes that Case has built a "pretty effective grass-roots organization" and Hanabusa has private-sector union support.

According to electronic filings with the Federal Election Commission, Hanabusa has raised about $88,000 and taken out a $100,000 loan for the campaign. Matsunaga has raised about $114,000, mostly from labor unions, and taken out a $30,000 loan, and Case has raised about $116,000 from a variety of contributors.

Among Republicans, Marumoto has raised a little over $37,000 and taken out a $25,000 loan. McDermott's latest filings show his fund raising has dried up; he has only received $623.97 in the period between Nov. 26 and Dec. 15.

"We're just sign-waving, dropping literature and saying some prayers," McDermott said.

The special election is expected to cost about $800,000. The Nov. 30 special election cost about $700,000.

Originally, the Office of Elections had estimated the cost would be $1.5 million to $2 million for each special election. But they said they were able to hold costs down.

Where to vote

The state Office of Elections has consolidated polling places for the special election for Congress, so some places where voters usually vote may not be open today. Voters should have received a yellow card in the mail telling them where to vote.

Voters who have lost the card or have questions can call the Office of Elections at 453-VOTE (8683). Neighbor island residents can call toll-free 800-442-VOTE (8683); TTY at 808-453-6150.

Poll locations are also available online at

Voters are also reminded to bring picture identification with a signature on it to the polling place.

State Office of Elections

E-mail to City Desk


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