Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:10 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Rep. Mink wins big even after death

By James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i voters chose to honor the late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink yesterday by overwhelmingly re-electing her to Congress, setting up a special election at the end of the month to fill the remainder of her term.

"In our hearts, we are happy just knowing it is a victory for her," said Joan Manke, Mink’s former chief of staff.

A special election will be held Nov. 30 to fill the last five weeks of Mink’s term in Congress; her husband, John Mink, is a candidate for that position along with 38 others.

With Patsy Mink’s victory over Republican challenger Bob McDermott in the 2nd Congressional District (Rural O‘ahu, Neighbor Islands), another election will be held Jan. 4 to determine who will fill that seat in the 108th Congress.

Mink, 74, who had served Hawai‘i in the U.S. House for 24 years, died Sept. 28 after a monthlong bout with viral pneumonia, two days too late to have her name removed from the general election ballot. She won yesterday’s election without the benefit of a campaign headquarters, a spokesperson or even a candidate.

Democratic Party officials urged people to cast a "tribute" vote for Mink, but many voters balked at the cost of special elections, estimated to cost between $1.3 million and $1.7 million each.

"The bottom line is (Mink) is not alive," said Kailua voter Everett Inamasu, 22, who voted for McDermott. "The Democrats say vote for her legacy, but it is a lot of money for a special election."

Mink also defeated Libertarian Jeff Mallan and Natural Law candidate Nicholas Bedworth.

Some voters said they would like to have seen another name placed on the ballot to replace Mink and avoid the necessity of the special elections.

Hawai‘i Chief Elections Officer Dwayne Yoshina last month refused to waive a time limit and allow the Democratic Party to replace Mink on the ballot following a ruling by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court denying a request by Gov. Ben Cayetano to order the deadline extended.

Lorraine Akiba, chairwoman of the Hawai'i Democratic Party, said the victory not only honors Mink, but also shows support for the special election in January.

"They have basically said we want a special election come Jan. 4 so that we can have a complete, full opportunity to pick someone for this very important seat," Akiba said.

Akiba said the state as well as the nation will miss Mink’s strong spirit in the next Congress.

"She was a woman that, even if you disagreed with her positions, was well respected," Akiba said.

"It is something that is going to be sorely missed. A big void has been left by her passing."

McDermott conceded the race early, saying he had to battle not only Mink’s legacy but the Republican Party, which did not support his campaign.

"I’m very disappointed," McDermott said. "We did the best we could with what we had. I didn’t get any money from the local party. Not one dollar. Not one dollar from the national party. They left me twisting in the wind. My biggest opponent the whole time was the Republican Party."

McDermott said he plans to run for the same seat in the special election in January.

In the 1st Congressional District (Urban O'ahu), incumbent Democrat Rep. Neil Abercrombie easily defeated Republican Mark Terry and Libertarian James Bracken.

Abercrombie was first elected in 1990 and will serve his seventh term in Congress.

"I’m very, very grateful to everybody," Abercrombie said.

Abercrombie said Mink’s election shows that Hawai‘i voters want to continue with a strong Democratic congressional delegation.

Terry said he is disappointed by the loss, but will likely run in other local races in the future.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.