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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 21, 2009

Disgrace, hypocrisy in local politics

By David Shapiro

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Neil Abercrombie

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It's incredible that U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie's announcement that he'll resign from Congress to campaign for governor has spurred serious talk of saving $2 million by not holding a special election to replace him until the regular election in September.

It's already starting to generate the same kind of ridicule here and on the Mainland as our "furlough Fridays."

What a state. We close our schools, don't hold elections and let half our people go unrepresented for most of the year in the U.S. House of Representatives as it oversees billions in spending here and sets policies that affect our health and safety, schools, lands, environment and relationship with the military.

Much of the no-election talk has come from state chief elections officer Kevin Cronin, an unhappy camper who has resigned effective Dec. 31.

It's time for the Elections Commission and elected officials who control the purse strings to step in with assurances that there will be a special election at the earliest possible date, just as when the late Rep. Patsy Mink died in 2002.

Abercrombie didn't do himself or his constituents any favors by announcing his intention to resign before he had a date, giving Republicans a chance to attack him for indecisiveness and running up election costs in a tight budget year.

It's fair to question the way he's gone about it, but there's some hypocrisy in trying to vilify Abercrombie for not finishing his term.

Hawai'i voters have passed ballot measures requiring state and county elected officials to resign before running for another office, on the grounds that they supposedly can't do their current job effectively while running for another.

The state resign-to-run law doesn't apply to federal office holders, but Abercrombie can make a credible case that he's respecting the clearly expressed wishes of Hawai'i voters by stepping down.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the likely Republican candidate for governor, was quick to promise to finish his term as if there's any work a lieutenant governor has to do that would cut into his campaign time.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Abercrombie's likely Democratic primary opponent, agreed with Sen. Daniel Inouye's criticism that Abercrombie "leaves us a vote shy in the House at a time when major policy changes like health care reform, a war spending measure, the Akaka bill and others are shaping up for debate and passage."

Hannemann resigned from the City Council in midterm to run for mayor and would have to resign as mayor in mid-term to run for governor.