UPDATED 6-17-2016: A Democratic state senator is the target of a lawsuit that seeks to keep her name off the 2016 election ballot.

Sen. Laura Thielen, who represents a district that includes Kailua, Lanikai, Waimanalo and Hawaii Kai, is accused of submitting incomplete nomination papers to the state Office of Elections.

The lawsuit was filed by Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Fritz Rohlfing. His attorney is Jim Hochberg, who has long been active in conservative causes.

Sen Laura Thielen with mom Rep Cynthia Thielen at the House during joint session. 22 april 2016.
Democratic Sen. Laura Thielen, left, with her mother, Republican Rep. Cynthia Thielen, at the state House during a joint session in April. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the 1st Circuit Court of Hawaii, argued that three of the 17 signatures of registered voters listed on Thielen’s nomination papers are invalid.

Rohlfing alleged that the names of the three signatories do not match the names of actual registered voters.

The signatures of 15 valid registered voters are necessary for a candidate to qualify for the ballot. Because Thielen only has 14 valid signatories, she should be disqualified, the lawsuit said.

Update: Rohlfing issued a statement Friday morning that read in part:

Our party supports candidates for public office who will carry out our party’s goals of greater individual freedom, respect for the U.S. Constitution, and more effective participation of the people in the government.

In carrying out this purpose, we have a responsibility as party officers not only to recruit and support the election of Republican candidates, but also to object when we believe prospective candidates from the Democratic Party have failed to meet the threshold requirements to legally qualify as candidates. …

We are challenging Laura Thielen’s nomination papers because state law requires a prospective candidate for the state senate to present nomination papers having the names and signatures of at least 15 voters registered in the senate district.

HRS § 12-4(b) states in pertinent part: “Names on nomination papers shall not be counted, unless the signer is a registered voter and is eligible to vote for the candidate.”We believe Laura Thielen presented nomination papers without the requisite number of names eligible to be counted toward the 15 voter minimum.

The objection process is expedited under Section 12-8 and we expect to have a final ruling on our objection within a matter of weeks.

Thielen, who submitted a total of 25 signatures of which 17 were validated, saw things differently.

“The State Office of Elections certified that my nomination papers have more than enough valid signatures of registered voters,” Thielen said. “The Republican Party is trying to invalidate voters by claiming that someone signing with their middle initial instead of a full middle name ‘doesn’t exist,’ despite the fact that their first and last name, middle initial, date of birth, Social Security number and address all match the voter registration database.”

GOP Fritz Rohfling . 21 may 2016.
GOP Party Chair Fritz Rohlfing at the state convention in Waipahu in May. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Thielen added, “The Hawaii Republican Party has bigger things to worry about than trying to disenfranchise Hawaii voters. I’m confident the court will dismiss this frivolous claim.”

A spokesperson for the Office of Elections said Thielen’s candidacy was certified but would not comment on pending litigation.

Thielen is an attorney who previously served as chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, agricultural liaison with the City and County of Honolulu and as director of the state Office of Planning.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

She is unopposed in the Democratic primary. In the general election, she would face the winner of the Republican primary, which features Heather Dozier and Robert Nagamine.

Four years ago, when Thielen first ran for the state Senate, she was challenged by the Democratic Party of Hawaii because it had concerns that Thielen had strong ties to Hawaii Republicans.

Her mother, Cynthia Thielen, is a Republican in the state House of Representatives. Laura Theilen was appointed to the DNLR by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Democrats also said Thielen had not been a party member in good standing for the six months required prior to filing to run for office.

The party eventually dropped the challenge, citing expenses and concern about a lengthy legal process.

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