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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 1, 2010

Empty seat: Should quitting be an issue?

With Neil Abercrombie filing candidacy papers yesterday to seek the governor’s seat, one of Hawaii’s most pivotal election seasons has officially begun.
So has the latest round of catcalls about Abercrombie’s decision to resign from Congress, all so that he can more conveniently run for governor.

Even people who aren’t especially hostile to Abercrombie are annoyed by his departure from Washington, which will leave Hawaii’s First Congressional District unrepresented for months. And that departure comes at a time when many important issues — health care reform at the top of the list — have not been resolved in the House.
Blame it on bad planning or arrogance or putting his own ambitions ahead of his constituents. The question is whether this decision should dominate the campaign. The answer is clear: No.
Abercrombie’s early departure has diminished what should have been a roundly celebrated tenure on Capitol Hill, one in which he rose to a level of seniority that served his constituency well. The consequence will be justifiable criticism for leaving unfinished business.
But there are other politicians poised to leave their posts early, too — most notably, Abercrombie’s anticipated rival in the Democratic primary, Mayor Mufi Hannemann. Too much time will be wasted if the debate shifts to a tit-for-tat over leaving office.
We can be troubled or even angry about the musical chairs politicians play to get ahead and to some voters that may be the most important issue.
But we’d rather hear the candidates offering specific plans for moving Hawaii out of its malaise and restoring fiscal stability.
We can skip the fingerpointing on who quit what when.