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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hawaii congressional election could put gap in council, Legislature

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Today is the last day to vote in person for the special election at the walk-in voting site in

Honolulu Hale. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People who intend to vote by mail should post their ballots no later than tomorrow. Election officials must receive ballots by 6 p.m. Saturday for them to be counted.

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The election of either Charles Djou or Colleen Hanabusa in this Saturday's Congressional District 1 election would put into motion a process leading to a short-term replacement.

If Djou, the leader in recent polls, wins, his eight remaining colleagues on the council would have 30 days to name a successor, under the Honolulu City Charter. That person would fill out the rest of Djou's term, which ends Jan. 2.

If the council can't come to a decision in 30 days, it would be up to Mayor Mufi Hannemann to fill the seat.

Council Chairman Todd Apo said yesterday that if Djou wins, the council would first have to wait for him to take office before the 30-day clock starts. There would be a public call for candidates from among the registered voters in the district, which runs from Hawai'i Kai to Ala Moana.

Apo said he expects to gather the names and pass the list on to his colleagues. Any of the council members could then nominate a person from the list who would be voted on at the council's June 19 meeting. "Then it would take five votes to fill the vacancy," he said.

Even if Djou weren't running for Congress, city laws bar him from running for a third consecutive council term.

Three candidates have announced their intention to run for Djou's 4th District seat this fall. They are Stanley Chang, Jeremy Low and Richard Turbin. Conceivably, the council could pick one of them.

Or, the council could choose someone who promises not to run in the fall so as to not give any one candidate an advantage in the fall elections.

For instance, when Rene Mansho resigned amid controversy in 2002, the council chose Central O'ahu community leader Darrlyn Bunda to replace her. Bunda made it clear she would not run for the seat that fall.

Apo said he would prefer that whoever ends up with the temporary post not be a candidate for the seat. But there are no laws or rules on that issue, so it will be up to five council members, he said.

A Djou victory is not the only scenario where an incumbent would need to be replaced. Hanabusa represents the 21st Senate district, which stretches from Nānākuli to Mākaha.

Hanabusa, the Senate president, is in the middle of a four-year term and is not up for re-election.

If she wins Saturday, Hawai'i state law says it's up to Gov. Linda Lingle to pick a temporary replacement. That person would have to come from a list of three eligible candidates recommended by Hanabusa's political party, the Democratic Party of Hawai'i.

Under state law, the replacement would have to have been a member of the Democratic Party for at least six months prior to being appointed, and also would have to be a resident of the 21st Senate district.

Unlike the city law pertaining to council vacancies, there is no time frame for a temporary replacement to be selected.

The new senator would only be in place until the Nov. 2 general election and, unless there's a special session, might never take part in an official Senate proceeding in the Senate chambers.

In November, voters would select a candidate to fill out Hanabusa's remaining two years.

That election would be conducted like any other state House or Senate election, with partisan primaries and a winner-take-all general election. The only difference would be that the term would only be two years.

A Hanabusa victory Saturday would also require the remaining 24 members of the Senate to determine who would be their new president.