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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 22, 2004

Election season's open: Let the people choose

Yesterday's deadline for filing to run in the 2004 elections produces a classic glass half-full or half-empty response.

On the half-full side, Republicans and Democrats have managed to set up direct partisan contests in all but six of the 63 state House and Senate seats in contention this year.

That's impressive, and should give voters a clear choice between Republican and Democratic philosophies in almost every district.

The same pattern emerged in the congressional races, where both Democratic incumbents face vigorous challenges by Republicans with good name recognition.

Another healthy pattern in yesterday's filings was the relative scarcity of uncontested seats. Just six seats will go uncontested.

This contrasts markedly with previous years in which dozens of seats in the Legislature would go uncontested, leaving the voters no choice and little reason to participate in the process.

In short, the after-filing picture shows a lot of vigor on the political front.

If there was a glass half-empty aspect to the filings, it was that 38 contests involve just one person from the Democratic Party and one from the Republican — usually the incumbent and a challenger.

In a handful of cases, third-party candidates or independents add to the mix.

But overall, the pattern suggests a lack of true grass-roots excitement in well over half the races, with each party sending in an anointed standard-bearer but little more.

It is now up to the voters to make this more than a power contest between the two major parties. Candidates must be pressed to say precisely why they are running, what they hope to accomplish if elected and what they hope to do for their prospective constituents.

Elections can be controlled by the parties and the candidates, or they can be controlled by the people.

In 2004, let's put the people in charge.