Resign-to-run ruling lets campaign take off
A plain-sense ruling from the state Supreme Court yesterday cleared the way for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris once again to gear up his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.
The ruling, which clears clouds of confusion around the so-called "resign-to-run" provision of the state Constitution, is a boon both to Harris and the voters. It will allow the 2002 campaign for governor to proceed apace.
Since March, when a Circuit Court ruled that Harris should resign immediately as mayor if he wishes to run for governor, the Harris campaign has been effectively on ice.
That shortchanged the voters, who lost an opportunity to hear from the presumptive Democratic front-runner while other major candidates were busy giving speeches and attending political forums.
With this ruling, Harris can again start fund-raising, organizing and most important renewing his political dialogue with the voters.
It is true that the troubles that have bedeviled the Harris campaign are not yet over. He has won a court battle over his ability to raise a full $6,000 from supporters for his gubernatorial campaign even though he had previously collected money from them for his mayoral bid. And a Campaign Spending Commission probe into his fund-raising efforts for the National Democratic Committee has been set aside.
But a criminal investigation by the city prosecutor regarding campaign donations appears to be ongoing. Whether anything comes of that investigation in the end, it remains a nagging distraction.
Still, from a political standpoint, yesterday's Supreme Court ruling is important. It means that Harris will not have to resign from office until the day he formally files nomination papers as a candidate for governor. And he can campaign at will until that point.
But there is still some work to do if Hawai'i intends to maintain a resign-to-run law. If the political will is in place to require resignation at some point sooner than the filing of nomination papers, the Legislature must say so specifically.
But the logic of waiting until filing is compelling: It is the final step in a long and twisting path toward candidacy.
At the same time, lawmakers should consider setting uniform beginning and end dates for all local political offices. This would avoid the absurd effect of forcing a candidate to resign a current office simply because its term overlaps the one sought by a few days or weeks.
The core and eminently reasonable intent of the 1978 Constitutional Convention was to keep people from running from the "safe harbor" of a term of office that was only half-completed.
Clearing up a few details will allow that principle to work better and more consistently.