Hawaii Candidate Deadline Attracts Last-Minute Flurry

Former Mayor Mufi Hannemann files to run for governor on the deadline day.
Photo: Courtesy Mufi Hannemann

The last day to file to run in Hawaii’s elections tends to attract two types of people: big-name candidates looking to take advantage of media attention on the filing deadline and those who have procrastinated or mulled over their run as long as possible. June 3's deadline was no different.

The day started with some 130 potential candidates who had pulled nomination papers with the state Office of Election but had yet to file them. That meant many candidates made a last-minute dash to file for one of 105 statewide contests at county and state filing locations across the state.

Among them was former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who announced several weeks ago that he planned to run for governor under the banner of the newly formed Hawaii Independent Party. To add a bit of drama to the day, the Hawaii Independents and Hannemann announced that former city parks director Les Chang would be running with him for lieutenant governor. They filed together at the state Office of Elections in Pearl City.

Also among the last-minute filers were state Rep. Chris Lee (D-Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo), running for re-election, and Councilmember Stanley Chang, running for the First Congressional District seat.

We visited the State Office Tower on Beretania Street to catch last-minute candidates. As with the past two election cycles, the stream of candidates filing on the last day was more a steady trickle than it was a heavy flow, says Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the state Office of Elections.

Victoria Mathieu files for state House District 19.
Photo: Loren Moreno

Victoria Mathieu, running for state House District 19 (Diamond Head, Kapahulu) as a Republican, says she was mulling over her run for office all the way through the last week.

Mathieu had intended to file on Monday, until election workers told her that only 17 of her petition signatures were valid (candidates need 15). She could have filed, but she decided to take the extra day to collect more signatures.

“I’m sort of a little paranoid and I wanted to be sure I had more than enough,” Mathieu says, noting that signatures can get invalidated easily.

The former schoolteacher was accompanied by two friends, including fellow candidate Julia Allen, who is running for state House District 20 (St. Louis Heights, Palolo, Wilhelmina Rise, and Kaimuki).

In addition to paying their filling fee and getting their signatures verified, candidates must also take an oath of candidacy and repeat their name into a voice recorder (to be used for visually impaired voters).

We caught up with Army veteran Calvin Griffin after he took his oath. He’s running as a non-partisan for the U.S. First Congressional District seat, which is being vacated by Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. Like Mathieu, June 3 was Griffin’s second attempt to file after half of his signatures were disqualified.

Griffin previously ran for Honolulu mayor in 2010, earning 582 votes, or 0.3 percent. He thinks he has better chances this year running for Congress, though he acknowledged some big names in the race, including whoever emerges from the Democratic primary (Perhaps State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim or state Rep. K. Mark Takai?) and Republican Charles Djou.

“I really feel a lot of people are disgruntled with the lack of choices, the usual suspects,” he says.

Others waited until the last moment to decide whether they would run or not. Chris Lethem just joined the state Republican party a few days ago so he could run for state Senate District 12 (Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kakaako, McCully). Lethem, a software engineer and Marine veteran, said he didn’t initially intend to run. He was approached by state Republicans who urged him to do so.

“Since they didn’t have a Republican candidate in the district, they wanted someone who could represent their voice,” Lethem says.

Waiting until the deadline has some advantages, especially if a candidate is a known commodity. Local media are bound to cover the filing deadline (it makes for decent TV spot news), so big-name candidates can use the opportunity to get their faces on the six o’clock news.

That appears to be part of the strategy for Hannemann as he announced his running mate in Pearl City. Hannemann selected Les Chang, an Air Force veteran, who served as the director of the city’s department of parks and recreation with Hannemann from 2004 to 2010.

That was a surprise, but Chang is not particularly well-known outside of city government. Still, he’s probably more respected in the political arena than former University of Hawaii football coach Dick Tomey, whom Hannemann earlier considered as a running mate.