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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Tamayo dual duty ruled out by Guard

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Hawai'i National Guard officials said yesterday that state Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo won't be able to serve as a member of the House of Representatives while she is on active military duty in Iraq next year.

Maj. Chuck Anthony, spokes-man for the Hawai'i National Guard, said a judge advocate general assigned to the Hawai'i National Guard read an Aug. 2 directive from the Defense Department titled "Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty" and has concluded Tamayo would not be able to serve in the Legislature.

"It seems as though once you're on federal active duty ... for 270 days or longer, you cannot act in dual capacities," Anthony said. "In other words, you can't be an elected official and a soldier at the same time. That's our read on it."

The directive states: "A member on active duty shall not use his or her official authority or influence for interfering with an election; affecting the course or outcome of an election; soliciting votes for a particular candidate or issue; or requiring or soliciting political contributions from others." The directive goes on to say that members cannot "be a candidate for, hold, or exercise the functions of civil office."

Tamayo said she believes that the directive may apply only to full-time, active-duty military and not members of the National Guard such as herself.

She said she was surprised by the National Guard's interpretation, noting that her name legally must stay on the ballot.

Tamayo said she will seek legal counsel. She also said her campaign supporters will continue to ask that constituents vote for her despite her absence.

"The situation seems very confused," Tamayo later said in a written statement.

"What (Maj. Anthony) told me contradicts what I was told previously, so I can't comment on the matter until I speak to them and get my own counsel to look at the matter. I've paid a lot of attention to this to make sure my constituents are well-served and have been working closely with House Speaker Calvin Say, and I still believe that things can be worked out."

Meanwhile, researchers at Say's office are looking into the case of Pennsylvania state Sen. John Pippy, who was elected while on active duty in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 and returned to take his legislative seat in January.

Tamayo, 23, was activated Monday after having volunteered to transfer out of the Hawai'i Army National Guard's medical command, which is not being deployed at this time, and becoming attached to a unit being deployed that provides medical support for the 29th Separate Infantry Brigade.

She is among some 3,600 Hawai'i-based National Guard and Army Reserve members expected to set aside their day-to-day lives for the next 18 months and become active military during a tour that will include a year in Iraq beginning in February.

Tamayo said she believes her situation may be different because "when I filed, I didn't know I was going to be activated." She said she found out about her activation on Friday. She had filed her nomination papers on July 13. It remains unclear on what day she volunteered for the unit that was being called up.

Further, she said, "even though I'm activated for deployment, it's not like I enlisted as regular Army."

Attorneys and researchers for Say's office have been looking at the issue the past two days.

House researchers and Tamayo pointed to Pennsylvania news reports about Pippy, a Republican state representative who won election to the state Senate in 2003.

Tamayo said her campaign will go on, even though she may be away. Three other Democrats and a Republican are also seeking the 42nd House District seat, which includes portions of Waipahu, 'Ewa and West Loch. She pointed out that state laws bar her from withdrawing from the race 24 hours after the July 10 candidate filing deadline except for medical reasons.

Say's staff was exploring the options of how Tamayo might serve while on active duty.

Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Pearl City, Newton, Royal Summit), said the Pippy case shows Tamayo should be allowed to run for office while she is on active duty. "I think that, based on what we understand of the military's policy, it is possible for a person to run for office and serve while on active duty," said Takai, who is a National Guard member assigned to the medical command and has not been called up.

Takai said he also believes that the Legislature can enact rules to allow a proxy to vote in Tamayo's place, although neither Pippy nor a proxy voted during the entire time he was on military duty.

Anthony said the military attorney's opinion applied only to what Tamayo can or cannot do in the military. As for what happens to the House seat if Tamayo is elected while she is away, "that's a legislative issue" and would be up to the other lawmakers, Anthony said.

In 'Ewa, residents have mixed feelings about Tamayo's decision to seek re-election even though she will likely be absent during the better part of the upcoming two legislative years.

Raynette Daite, 48, of West Loch, said she voted for Tamayo two years ago because Tamayo made a good impression as a first-time candidate when she stopped by the Daite home. "I thought it was time for somebody new, somebody who's young," Daite said.

But Daite, a bank manager, said she's struggling with whether to vote for Tamayo again this fall, knowing she will be on active duty for all of the 2005 legislative session and at least part of the 2006 session.

"I thank her, even," Daite said of Tamayo's decision to go to Iraq. "But I don't know if I'm voting for her if she's going to be away. I would like to have somebody sitting there and really being a voice. It makes a difference."

Daite suggested that Tamayo run again when her military tour ends. Daite said she would not hesitate to vote for her then.

Greg McHugh, 50, an 'Ewa by Gentry resident who spent 20 years in the Navy and served during the Gulf War, said he supports Tamayo's decision to serve in Iraq and expects to vote for her this fall.

"If elected officials get experience in the military, then they've got a better understanding of what's going on," said McHugh, who is now in the merchant marine.

But not all retired military felt as McHugh did. "I think they have to make a choice," said 'Ewa resident Robert Coleman, 71, a retired Navy man. "Either serve the country in the military or as a politician. I don't think she should hold two jobs at the same time."

Heather Vincent, 26, a shift supervisor at an 'Ewa cafe, also is torn about whether to vote for Tamayo, formerly a frequent visitor to her establishment. "She's not going to know what's going on (at the Legislature) if she's up there," Vincent said.

Monique Nuuanu, 26, of 'Ewa, said she respects Tamayo for her decision to go to Iraq but also wonders whether she will vote for her. Even if Tamayo is allowed to cast legislative votes electronically, she said, "what happens if technology falls short and a glitch happens?"

Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at gpang@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.