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Thielen plans to run for Senate as Democrat despite party rejection

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 10:17 a.m. HST, Apr 17, 2012

Laura H. Thielen, a former director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, said today that she will run for state Senate as a Democrat.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii has determined that Thielen is not eligible to run under the party's banner because she has not been a member in good standing for the minimum six months required under the party's rules. Thielen asked the party for an exception but was rejected.

Thielen's decision to enter the Democratic primary in Senate District 25, which covers Waimanalo and Hawaii Kai, puts the onus on the party. State Democrats could challenge her candidacy in Circuit Court or move to expel her from the party.

State Sen. Pohai Ryan, a Democrat in her first term, now represents the district. Former state Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, a Republican who represented the district for a decade, has said he intends to run again.

"Voters have a legal right to choose who represents them," Thielen said in a statement.  "A small group in a party cannot secretly and arbitrarily veto that choice.  I am a member of the Democratic Party.  Hawaii law allows me to run for public office as a Democratic candidate."

It's important to give voters a real choice among candidates this year," she said.  "The Legislature is taking unprecedented action to eliminate environmental and zoning laws and limit public accountability over large government contracts and development.  These laws have the potential to change the face of Hawaii forever."

Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, has said the Democrats unhappy with the party's rules can discuss potential changes at the state convention in May. 

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