What To Do About Carpetbaggers?

This is no open-and-shut issue:

Should you live in a district in a small place like Hawaii in order to be eligible to run for office there?

Our state and city laws say yes. Federal office-seekers need only reside in the state, although a quirk in the law says a Congress candidate can live in either of our two districts but can only vote in the district of residence.

So Colleen Hanabusa ran in District 1 but could not vote for herself because she resided in District 2.

That’s pretty bizarre.

Now KITV reporter Daryl Huff comes upon something more complicated: people who either instantly move into a City Council district to run, or who sort of don’t really live there.

That reminds me of state Rep. Calvin Say, who was living outside his district but claiming residence in the empty house I photographed in Palolo.

Huff’s story of carpetbagging is about Kioni Dudley, who definitely lives with his wife in Makakilo but is running for a City Council seat in Ewa Beach while claiming an apartment residence there.

And candidate Mel Kahele, who definitely has lived in Makakilo, has now claimed a relative’s house in Ewa Beach as his qualifying residence for the vacant Todd Apo seat.

I think carpetbagging is an issue under our current law, and I’d never vote for a carpetbagger because that’s trifling with the law. I’d reject outsiders stretching the residency rule so long as it’s the rule.

But for the future, I wonder if residency, other than by island, makes sense for us. We’re so small that we all know each other. This ain’t California. Besides, in the matter of City Council elections, we’ve made the districts so large that residency is a joke if you’re saying only a “resident” knows the issues. Look at the size of that Central Oahu district, or East Oahu.

We do have to abide by Supreme Court one-person-one-vote rules. We do that with at-large votes for Board of Education. We could do that with the City Council.

I’ve critiqued Calvin Say, but I think he can represent Pauoa as well as Palolo, if the people in both areas want him.

But current law is what it is, and Dudley and Kahele seem to be bending residency to the breaking point. They should press for a law revision for 2014. Voters should pass on them this year.

There’s good sense in only letting bona fide residents of a district vote in that district, but if they prefer somebody who lives outside that district, why not?

We have many election laws I call “just because.” Ours – like the no-multi-candidate-per-district Senate one – was to preserve favored politicians of the Burns-Ariyoshi period.

We should go back, but there’s no will for that among single-runner-per-district incumbents.

So thank you, Daryl Huff, for bringing this to our attention.

Now, will anyone do anything about it?

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