Tulsi Gabbard resigns, open seat generates interest

Tulsi Gabbard resigns, open seat generates interest
Published: Aug. 16, 2012 at 2:31 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 17, 2012 at 3:28 AM HST
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Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard
Esther Kiaaina
Esther Kiaaina
Jon Yoshimura
Jon Yoshimura
Karl Rhoads
Karl Rhoads

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After winning the primary election for Congress in a landslide Tulsi Gabbard is now resigning her seat from city council even though she still has to win in the general.

The decision comes down to money, in this case saving taxpayer money.

Gabbard says if she resigns now there won't be an expensive special election that would have cost $150,000.  Instead the candidates will be on the general election ballot in November.  She says it's also better because the general election will have a bigger voter turnout than a special election.  So Gabbard resigned effective this morning.

"I'm resigning today so that I can make sure taxpayers are not saddled with the cost of a special election," said Tulsi Gabbard, (D) Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District Candidate. "This decision was not a difficult one because I knew that at anytime, but especially in these tough economic times saving taxpayer dollars whether one dollar, $150,000 or a million that needs to be our focus on any issue going forward."

City Council District 6 won't have a councilmember until the end of November.  Honolulu City Council Chair Ernie Martin isn't concerned saying there isn't expected to be many ties on the council on big issues.

"We've passed recent issues concerning rail with a very clear and convincing majority in terms of that particular issue so even with the loss of her vote, and she had been pro rail, I think we will be able to still move forward," said Martin.

Resigning now is a safe decision considering Gabbard is a huge favorite.  Her Republican opponent is Kawika Crowley, who always has a cigar, is a lobbyist for smokers and bar owners and for the past two months has been living out of his van.

Crowley says he admires Gabbard's decision to save taxpayer money and even he does not think it was a premature move to resign early.

Gabbard's resignation created a buzz in Oahu politics.  Now council candidates are getting ready for a sprint to the general election.  The deadline to file is August 31. With so many potential candidates 20 percent of the vote could be enough for the winner take all race.

In a political twist Esther Kia'aina, who just lost to Gabbard in the congressional primary, has not ruled out running for her council seat. She lives in Nanakuli, but owns a condo within District 6. The renters moved out in July and the unit is currently vacant.

Kia'aina says she has been recuperating from the primary and has not given much thought to running for council. However she says since Saturday she has been inundated with calls from supporters urging her to run.  She will make a decision before the August 31 deadline.

Former city councilmember Jon Yoshimura says he is definitely running and will have a press conference tomorrow.

State Senator Carol Fukunaga who lost her primary election as a redistricting casualty is also "seriously exploring a run."

"Many supporters have encouraged me to step forward to continue serving the people of Hawaii on important issues like job creation, community revitalization and enhanced government services.  It's an important opportunity to serve a broader constituency that has unique community needs," said Fukunaga, in a written statement.

John Mizuno and Karl Rhoads, both of whom are current State House of Representatives, are also thinking about running.

"I'm seriously considering it. I'll have to make a decision very quickly because of the short deadline and because I have to start campaigning if I'm going to do it," said Rep. Karl Rhoads, (D) Chinatown, Downtown, Palama.  "I have a good chance of winning, probably 50/50 or better but you have to balance that with being in the House of Representatives which is an interesting and productive job too."

"We're very excited. I didn't think about this at all. It's our supporters you see me with that asked me to step up and that's what I'm doing," said Rep. John Mizuno, (D) Kalihi Valley, Kamehameha Heights, Fort Shafter, who was flanked by several sign waiving supporters during the interview.

Both Rhoads and Mizuno won their primary elections. Rhoads is unchallenged in the general election and won his seat outright.  Mizuno will face a Republican challenger in the general.

They would need to resign from the state office to run for the county which Mizuno won't do.

"If I did have to resign I wouldn't because I gave my word," said Mizuno, who hadn't received confirmation that he would need to resign from the House to run for Council.

Former Republican Party Chair Sam Aiona is considering running. He is expecting a crowded field and will weigh financial resources and the other candidates in his decision making process.

Two current city administrators have also been mentioned as potential candidates. They include Gail Haraguchi, Director of Customer Services and Gordon Bruce, Director of Information Technology.

"I think I could give a fresh new look at how we can run the city and I have eight years of experience on the other side of the table so I have an understanding what the other agencies are up against. I think I can bring a balanced approach," said Bruce.

Gabbard says she will not endorse any candidate.

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