Party Chair Dismissed Legal Opinion on Thielen04/06/2012
The chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii was warned that a candidate didn't have to have its approval to run for office under the party's banner.
But he didn't tell that to the party's State Central Committee before it voted last week to reject Laura Thielen's candidacy for the Hawaii Senate.
Attorney Eric Seitz, representing Thielen, laid out his legal opinion in a March 29 letter to Chair Dante Carpenter.
"Once Laura files her declaration the Party would have to either expel her utilizing the process set forth in its Constitution, or file a petition in Circuit Court objecting to her candidacy," wrote Seitz. "Under HRS Section 12-8(f) the only legitimate ground for such an objection is that 'the candidate is not a member of the party pursuant to the party's rules,' but that objection seems to be foreclosed."
By "foreclosed," Seitz explained to Civil Beat Thursday, he was referring to the fact that Thielen was already a party member, having registered Feb. 21.
Carpenter, however, did not pass Seitz's letter on to his party's State Central Committee before it voted on whether to allow Thielen to run.
"There was nothing in that (Seitz's letter) that said I should address it to the State Central Committee and nothing to prevent Laura from presenting it either," Carpenter said. "Seitz was with Laura at that time — they could have presented it themselves."
But Seitz said, "I didn't want to distribute that letter because it was important for them to decide how to handle it. ... We wanted to give them the best opportunity to make the right decision without this becoming a public issue first."
Just two days after the letter was written, on March 31, the committee sustained the vote of Oahu Democrats to reject Thielen's candidacy because it did not meet party rules.
"We have a process, and that process is actually pure and simple," said Carpenter, who described the Seitz letter as confusing. "We were operating from the standpoint of a document which is the party constitution adopted in May 2010."