Top Democrats Condemn Party for Rejecting Thielen

Laura Thielen

The surprising decision this weekend by Hawaii Democrats to reject Laura Thielen's request to run in the party's Aug. 11 primary for state Senate is causing many Democrats to question their own party.

Dismay over the decision is playing out in blog posts, including on Civil Beat, and in an exchange Monday between state senators during floor session. (See YouTube link below.)

The kerfuffle began Saturday when the party's State Central Committee sustained an earlier decision by Oahu Demo­crats that Thielen was not a party member in good standing for the six months leading up to the state's June 5 filing deadline. Thielen only registered with the party Feb. 21.

The party's decision has bewildered top Democrats like Sen. Clayton Hee.

Hee told his colleagues Monday on the Senate floor: "I just wanted to make a comment about news reports that the Democratic Party was limiting its membership. I thought it was a joke until I found out that, in fact, it's serious, that the Democratic Party now has rules, I guess, designed to keep people out of the party."

Hee, who said he was not "particularly endeared" to Thielen because of clashes he has had with her over Kahana Valley, said he believed the philosophy of the party "was to allow everyone in instead of crafting rules to keep people out."

"Anybody who wants to run ought to run," said Hee, almost shouting. "And the last organization to prevent people from seeking elected office ought not be the Democrat Party."

Bart Dame, who participated in the party discussions over Thielen, wrote in the discussion section of Civil Beat's blog item on Thielen's rejection: "Leadership has imposed an extremely unreasonable level of secrecy upon those of us at the meeting. I think this gag order is asinine and reflects a contempt for democratic norms."

Dame continued: "This extreme, self-hobbling censorship by the party leadership serves as a graphic illustration of the screwy 'legal' logic which led to this STOOPID decision against Laura Thielen."

Asked about her next move, Thielen, 51, said she's keeping her options open.

"I understand that there are a number of people within the party, including on the Central Committee, who are extremely upset over this decision and feel that this is not the way the rule was intended to be applied and that the proces is very concerning," she told Civil Beat Tuesday. "And I am hopeful those internal discussions will lead to a revisited decision and a better one — to support ballot access and voter rights to choose their own representatives for their own districts. I am waiting to see how it plays out."

Party Chair Dante Carpenter, however, said he knew of no plan to revisit the Thielen vote.

While stressing that he could not discuss what took place during executive session — including vote tallies — he defended the party's process and the outcome.

"I would love to discuss this all day long, but over 70 party members from across the state were in attendance for the vote, so it was not a small committee in a secret hideaway session," said Carpenter. "I can tell you that, parliamentary wise, we needed to have at minimum a tie vote to sustain the vote of the Oahu Executive Committee, and the question was whether or not to sustain the vote."

Carpenter said the State Central Committee deliberated for more than two hours and the Oahu committee for more than seven hours on the matter, and that the vote on Thielen "was a decision not taken lightly."

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