Hawaii elects dead lady to U.S. Congress
Up for grabs in Hawaii: A month in Congress
By David Briscoe
Nov. 30, 2002
HONOLULU - Cabdriver John Parker is taking a shot at being congressman for a month.
He is in good company. There are 38 hopefuls in a winner-takes-all election today to serve out the last five weeks of late Rep. Patsy Mink's term.
Parker's pitch is all economics: He says he won't spend a penny campaigning and promises to send anything he is paid back to the national Treasury.
"You can't get a better deal from any candidate," he said.
The sentimental favorite is Mink's widower, hydrologist John Mink, who has no professed political ambitions and won't be running in the more important race on Jan. 4 to determine who serves in Congress for the next two years.
Critics of the costly election to fill out Mink's term say voters may share her husband's lukewarm attitude toward politics. Ballot stations will be competing with the Hawaii vs. Alabama college football game, the start of the Christmas shopping season and North Shore surfing contests.
Even some candidates are showing apathy. Many haven't bothered to provide information about themselves on a free state Web site.
Mink, a Democrat who helped open the way for minority women in politics, died Sept. 28 of pneumonia at age 74 while campaigning for re-election. Constituents voted her in anyway.
The January election, with 44 candidates running for Mink's seat, has much riding on it. Republicans see a chance to win their first Hawaii seat in decades.
One person taking today's outcome seriously is former state Rep. Ed Case, who hopes victory will give him an incumbent's luster that will carry over into January.
The cousin of AOL Time-Warner chairman Steve Case lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary and is one of the few candidates who have been actively campaigning for today's election.
Several candidates backed out in deference to John Mink, who said he is running only to let his wife's staff wrap up her affairs in Washington.
One of those who dropped out and all but endorsed the widower was Mink's Republican opponent in the November election, former state Rep. Bob McDermott, who is running only for the full term.
Even the head of the state GOP, Micah Kane, called John Mink "the right individual" for the short-term job.
Votes from outlying precincts are to be flown uncounted to Honolulu after the polls close. Counting is expected to be completed and a winner announced Sunday.