Party label

February 15th, 2013

Who is a Democrat? A Republican? A Green? A new bill would shift the burden of proof in court to the potential candidate, not the political parties.

Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, asked for the bill after candidates ran for office last year as Democrats even though the party had determined they were ineligible.

Laura Thielen won a state Senate seat after disregarding the party’s ruling that she was ineligible to run as a Democrat because she had not been a member of the party for at least six months before the filing deadline. Chris Manabat, who was not a party member when he filed to run for the state House, won in the primary but lost in the general election.

Both Thielen and Manabat had signed sworn oaths that they were members of the Democratic Party and their filing papers were accepted by the state Office of Elections. Democrats had the option of challenging the candidates in court, but Carpenter said the party did not have the money and could not find attorneys to take the cases for free.

Carpenter said that the state should ensure candidates are “true to their word.”

The bill — Senate Bill 223 — would require the Office of Elections to reject potential candidates who political parties claim are not eligible to run under party labels. It would be left to the potential candidates to challenge the findings in court.

Democrats so thoroughly dominate Hawaii politics that some candidates have made strategic decisions to join the party to increase their chances of election or to maximize their influence at the Legislature. The party’s “big tent” philosophy has led to several disputes over whether elected Democrats adequately represent the party’s platform.

Sen. Les Ihara (D, Moiliili-Kaimuki-Palolo) said Hawaii is like a “one-party state.”

““Sorry, Sam,” Ihara said to his colleague, Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Diamond Head-Kahala-Hawaii Kai), the only Republican in the Senate.

“Hey,” Slom said, “you’re stating fact.”

One Response to “Party label”

  1. Bart Dame:

    This post implies Thielen and Manabat submitted false statements when they filed to run as Democrats. Here are the sentences I find troubling:

    “Both Thielen and Manabat had signed sworn oaths that they were members of the Democratic Party and their filing papers were accepted by the state Office of Elections.”

    Followed by:

    “Carpenter said that the state should ensure candidates are ‘true to their word.’”

    Yet no one, including the top officers of the Democratic Party, disputes Thielen WAS a member of the party at the time of her filing. So why the insinuation her oath was false?

    Manabat claimed to have submitted a party membership application at a previous party caucus, but his name did not appear in the party’s membership database. So it may be true he was NOT a member at the time of his filing. It is also VERY possible the Party headquarters lost his membership application in the flood of papers flowing into the HQ in the hours following a presidential preference caucus.

    I am sympathetic to the intent of the bill, that a political party should have some mechanism for preventing people from running under their party banner who are not supportive of the principles of hte party. Rrepublicans, Greens, Libertarians and Democrats all have a right to exclude people who may actually OPPOSE their platforms.

    But from my close participation in the debate over Thielen’s eligibility, I know firsthand the Democratic Party has not met its obligation to come up with a fair and orderly process for differentiating between those sympathetic and those hostile to our principles. Nor did the process meet MINIMUM standards of transparency, due process and the avoidance of conflict of interest. At the last state convention, the process was greatly improved, despite strong resistance from a significant portion of the leadership. Yet after the convention, some leaders still hounded Ms. Thielen, even after she attained approval of the Democratic primary voters in her district.

    Although she is in her very first legislative session, Thielen has demonstrated in the debates over repeal of the PLDC her ability to stand up to abuse and pressure tactics from some of the more experienced senators. She has brought her knowledge of public land management challenges to the Senate and that competence has helped inform the citizenry and frustrate certain political insiders. That top leaders of the Democratic Party had worked so hard, so publicly and so pettily to try to block her from running as a Democrat, suggests they (I should say “we”) are not yet ready to exercise the power Chair Carpenter is requesting be granted us. I say that with some sorrow, as I agree the Party SHOULD have this authority. But we should also be (at least) half-competent in exercising it. If not, it should be left to the Democratic primary voters to decide who THEY want to represent them.

Leave a Reply