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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 30, 2004

Guard soldier Tamayo won't campaign

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

State Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, a National Guard soldier who volunteered for service in Iraq after she had filed for re-election, said yesterday she will not campaign for a second term.

Rep. Tulsi Tamayo's name will remain on the Democratic primary ballot. She would not say if she would resign if she's re-elected.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"After thorough research, it is clear that Department of Defense rules will prohibit me from performing my legislative responsibilities while on active military duty in Iraq," she said at a press conference yesterday at the state Capitol.

State law, however, requires that Tamayo's name remain on the ballot. She declined to say whether she will resign if elected, or whether she will endorse another candidate for her office.

Because Department of Defense regulations limit campaign activities, Tamayo, D-42nd (Waipahu, Honouliuli, 'Ewa), said she felt prohibited from disclosing much about her political intentions. She said she had stopped all political activities after being placed on active duty two weeks ago.

During the press conference, Tamayo called the possibility of being elected and being unable to perform her duties "unacceptable."

"My goal is to actually be of service, not just to hold onto my position," she said.

However, in a written statement she distributed at the press conference, she indicated she has made plans in the event she is elected.

"My fellow legislators have assured me that they will cover for me, that they will be involved in my district and make certain that the people of my district are well taken care of while I'm on active military duty and in Iraq," she wrote.

She declined to elaborate on that statement.

Tamayo faces three opponents in the Sept. 18 Democratic primary: Genero Bimbo, Rida Cabanilla and Gerald Vidal. Republican Trevor Koch will oppose the winning Democrat in the general election.

Tamayo is among some 2,000 Hawai'i National Guard members who reported for active duty two weeks ago as part of an 18-month mission that will include service in Iraq.

"Although I was not activated," Tamayo wrote in her statement, "I volunteered to go with (her fellow Guardsmen) because I felt it was my duty as a soldier and a friend to join them in the service of our country."

Pentagon officials said earlier this month that Tamayo is not prohibited under federal law from holding office while serving on active duty, but would be forbidden from conducting any of the duties of her office.

Tamayo said she did not know that would be the case when she volunteered for duty in Iraq.

House Speaker Calvin Say said yesterday he was uncertain what options Tamayo's fellow legislators would have for supporting the 42nd District if she is re-elected.

Say, D-20th (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise), said he had never confronted a similar situation.

"If she is elected," he said, "that would be the wishes of her voters, and I'll discuss it with the members of the majority caucus and the members of the House, and see what we can do.

"I'm happy she's addressed the issue with her voters," he said, "and we'll see where it goes from here."

Tamayo is the daughter of Mike Gabbard, a Republican candidate for Congress who became a household name in Hawai'i when he lobbied for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. Her mother is Carol Gabbard, a Board of Education member who has said she will not seek re-election and will instead support her husband's congressional campaign.

Tamayo, who works as an educator for Healthy Hawai'i Coalition, a Kailua-based organization established by her father, was 21 when she was elected to office in 2002.

Her parents support her decision to go to Iraq, she said.

"They are anxious, of course," she said. "But they are extremely proud, and they support me 100 percent."

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.