Should Hawaii Democrats Stop Laura Thielen?

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

UPDATED 2:30 p.m.

The Democratic Party of Hawaii appears poised to take legal action as early as this week to stop Laura Thielen from running as a Democrat for the state Senate.

And one longtime party member is urging support for the lawsuit — because he wants it to fail.

"I hope you will forgive me if I predict we will lose in court," Bart Dame wrote in a June 3 email to other committee members. "If not on the first level, certainly upon appeal."

Dame is a member of the party's State Central Committee — click here to read the list of members — that voted May 27 to approve legal action against Thielen, a former Cabinet member under then-GOP Gov. Linda Lingle and who has other Republican links in her background. Thielen says she is a Democrat.

Democrats are in increasing turmoil over l'affaire Thielen.

Some worry it is making the party a laughing stock. How democratic is it, many say, to go to court to stop someone from seeking office?

Others feel that the party has the responsibility to make sure its candidates uphold its values and show a demonstrated commitment — something that they say Thielen has not done. The feeling is that she is a Laura-come-lately.

Dame's reasoning is based on his desire to get his party beyond the fiasco it has found itself in ever since the news broke that party leadership voted to reject Thielen's candidacy.

The party says that Thielen failed to meet a deadline to qualify for being in good standing with the party.

Thielen went ahead and filed anyway — her attorney advised her that she is legally qualified to run — and, for now at least, is listed as a candidate for the Senate District 25 seat.

Party members tell Civil Beat that top elected officials at both the state and federal level have tried to persuade Party Chair Dante Carpenter and Oahu County Chair Tony Gill from going through with the court action. They are worried about party unity as the 2012 elections enter a critical period.

At stake is political control of the U.S. Senate. Longtime Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka is retiring and two strong Democrats — U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former congressman Ed Case — are vying to replace him. But Democrats are also worried that Lingle, arguably the state's most popular Republican, has a chance to wrest the seat away from Democrats.

The Hawaii Republican Party is calling attention to their opponents' disarray — pointing out how cash-strapped Democrats planned to charge candidates $500 a minute to hold rallies at the state convention over Memorial Day Weekend. The plan was later dropped.

Though he opposes going to court over Thielen, Dame honors the decision of his party's leadership, which was reached through a deliberative process and majority vote.

But Dame, who considers legal action "foolish" and "a fantasy," is mostly concerned about whether his party is doing the right thing.

His email, which references discussion among members, reflects the emotional debate within the Democratic Party over who should be a Democrat — and who should not.

"I guess it may make me 'disloyal' to the party in the eyes of some, if I root for our defeat in court?" Dame writes in his email, which is reproduced in full at the end of this article. "My loyalty to the Party, as well as my loyalty to the US government, compels me to hope for its actions to be just and wise. And, yes, when our country behaves abominably, even illegally, I want some court, somewhere, to rule against her."

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