August 13, 2010

Was Bunda resigned before running for LG? Ask the Senate President.

Filed under: Hawaii State Politics — Doug @ 7:33 pm

Okay, it was mildly interesting when Larry Geller first raised the topic. I submitted a few comments on his post and, honestly, I thought it was a non-issue. It became slightly more interesting when a lawsuit was filed. And soon (if not already) it will be in the mainstream media, since it has already appeared in the Star-Advertiser’s blog twice.

The question is, did Senator Bunda resign from the Senate before filing to run for Lieutenant Governor? As reported by Geller, Senator Bunda submitted a letter July 14th where he described his “intent” to resign. According to DePledge’s blog, Bunda has vacated his office, initiated his retirement, turned in his keys, etc. The lawsuit, however, argues that without an (unspecified) explicit act of resignation , Bunda is not resigned and, thus, he is ineligible to run for LG. Implicitly, then, the argument is that Bunda is still a member of the Senate.

Allow me to gently point out that the Legislature is a co-equal branch of government. This matters greatly here.

In the Caldwell fiasco, the Office of Elections was answering a question of whether Caldwell had properly withdrawn as a candidate for re-election to the House before filing as a candidate for election to the Honolulu City Council, the Office of Elections was not addressing a question regarding resignation from elected office. The Office of Elections has no authority to decide if a candidate is in fact resigned from office. If the candidate affirms that he or she is eligible to be a candidate, then the Office of Elections has no statutory means to dispute the affirmation.

Likewise, the Judiciary is not (nor should it be) empowered to resolve what is essentially a question of Senate resignation policy, i.e. a “rule of [Senate] proceedings.” Not to put too fine a tip on it, but the Senate runs its own shop and the Judiciary does not have to like it.

Therefore, the President of the Senate (not a judge, and not the Chief Elections Officer) should rule whether any Senate rule was violated, and/or if Bunda’s resignation was in effect on July 16. So far as I can tell, the Senate rules do not proscribe any official resignation procedure, leaving the Senate President with wide latitude to rule on the matter. Whatever is decided by the President, if the Senate then wished to challenge that ruling, regular parliamentary procedure would allow for a majority vote.


  1. For the record, on the same day, I faxed the Senate President, Senate Clerk (where the official records are kept), and the Office of Elections, asking for letters of resignation for Sens. Hooser and Bunda. The Senate Clerk and Office of Elections responded with the same letters. The Senate President has not yet replied.

    Whether the opinion of the Senate President is what matters or a public record of resignation is needed, is not for me to say. My request was not for Hanabusa’s opinion, however, but for the docs.

    In the case of a challenge, the role of the Judiciary is clear. If the Office of Elections accepts the challenge as valid, it must turn the matter over to the judiciary. Senate rules don’t matter at that point.

    In the current instance, the Office of Elections now has a challenge, the next move would seem to be up to the Chief Elections Officer, if I understand it all correctly.

    Comment by Larry Geller — August 14, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  2. @Larry The Senate rules won’t matter at the Judiciary, you say. Well, we shall see about that…

    I’d agree with you if the complaint were based upon an eligibility question regarding any of the other critiera (such as the candidate’s age, residency, criminal history, etc.), but the only way for the Judiciary to resolve the question of Bunda’s resignation is to involve the Senate itself.

    Comment by Doug — August 14, 2010 @ 6:49 am

  3. No, I meant that if the Office of Elections determines that the challenge is valid, it has to turn it over to the judiciary. Not that Senate rules won’t matter to the Judiciary, I’m sure they might.

    But I claim no expertise in these matters.

    Comment by Larry Geller — August 14, 2010 @ 9:38 pm

  4. Just to keep the record current, Sen. Hanabusa has not replied to my public records request (for the letters of resignation) and I asked OIP to reminder her of the law, which they have done. They gave her five days from their letter to her. That expires on Tuesday.

    Comment by Larry — September 5, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

  5. @Larry No matter if Hanabusa does or doesn’t have (or release) a properly-worded resignation letter, really. The Senate says Bunda is resigned. That was game over, I reckon. The Courts are not going to touch this.

    Comment by Doug — September 5, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

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