HONOLULU – State officials have decided to hold a special election next month to fill the late Rep. Patsy Mink's seat for just five weeks, saying it is required by the U.S. Constitution.
The order Monday by the state's chief elections officer, Dwayne Yoshina, could mean three successive elections in two months for the 2nd District seat — Nov. 5 with Mink on the ballot, Nov. 30 to fill the rest of her term, and, if Mink wins the first vote, Jan. 4 for the next term.
Gov. Ben Cayetano said he wants to avoid a lawsuit such as the one filed in Ohio to force a special election to replace former Democratic Rep. James Traficant, who was expelled from Congress in July after he was convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
"That's not going to be the case in Hawaii,'' the governor said Tuesday.
Each special election is estimated to cost $2 million. On Monday, state Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom said it was outrageous to spend so much to fill the seat for such a short period when the state faces critical budget problems.
Candidates, whether representing parties or unaffiliated, have until Oct. 15 to file for the special election in the district that covers rural Oahu and all other islands.
The winner would have the advantage of incumbency in the Jan. 4 election, if it becomes necessary.
"The United States Constitution requires that citizens must have representation in Congress,'' Cayetano said. "In a democracy, we cannot deny the right of representation for one-half of Hawaii's population to save money. This is obviously especially true at this critical time in our nation's history.''
Cayetano noted that House vacancies are treated differently from those in the Senate, where offices are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The Constitution requires that House seats be filled only by election.