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GOP fields candidate for Kauai seat

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Republicans, taking advantage of a state law that gives political parties extra time to find replacements for candidates who have withdrawn, have found a challenger to state Rep. Hermina Morita on Kauai.

Harry Williams, a Kapaa contractor, has completed his paperwork with the state Office of Elections and will face Morita in House District 14 in Hanalei in the November general election.

Elections officials had given state Republicans until yesterday afternoon to find a replacement for David Hamman, who deliberately filed for and withdrew from the House race on Monday to give the GOP more time to field a contender. Hamman is instead running for a state Senate seat vacated last Friday by former state Senate Majority Leader Gary Hooser (D, Kauai-Niihau), who is campaigning for lieutenant governor.

Scott Nago:
He says state law
does not distinguish
between withdrawals
before or after the fil-
ing deadline

State law gives political parties three days to fill vacancies when candidates withdraw. Candidates can withdraw for any reason until the day after the filing deadline and for ill health up to 20 days before an election.

Democrats have complained that Republicans had no candidate in place by Tuesday’s filing deadline, because Hamman withdrew on Monday and they believed there was no vacancy.

But Scott Nago, state chief election officer, said the law does not distinguish between withdrawals that occur before or after the filing deadline.

"It does not distinguish that it has to be a vacancy at the close of the filing deadline," he said.

Jonah Kaauwai, state GOP chairman, said Republicans were following elections officials’ interpretation of the law. He said he understands the Democrats’ concerns but believes the process was fair.

Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, told elections officials yesterday that he believes they are "exercising an extremely wide latitude of interpretation."

Morita (D, Hanalei-Anahola-Kapaa) has asked the Office of Elections to reconsider. In a letter she said the state laws being cited involve the withdrawal of candidates, but she believes Republicans had no candidate at the close of the filing deadline because Hamman filed for and withdrew from the House race a day earlier.


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