Party officials said Friday they would file a complaint with the clerk of the 1st Circuit Court because Kaaihue is not a registered Democrat.
“We already sent a letter to Ms. Kaaihue letting her know that, under our bylaws, her candidacy in the Republican Party was grounds for mandatory expulsion,” Party Chair Tim Vandeveer said Friday. “She is not a member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
Update: Kaaihue said she has been informed by the Democratic Party and the state Elections Office that she was previously registered with the party.
“I am part of the Democratic party,” she said in an email Saturday.
Asked about her claim, a Democratic Party spokesperson said Saturday that it appeared the candidate had cut out a section from the official letter the party’s secretary sent to the candidate. The letter, the spokesperson said, explains that Kaaihue was indeed expelled from the party as allowed by its bylaws.
Kaaihue also issued a press release Saturday that read in part: “Even if a party decided it has to be decided in Court, and they want to argue the matter, let’s go to court.”
The deadline to file for the special election was Thursday. Ten candidates are in the field, including Kaaihue’s boyfriend, Democrat Howard Kim.
By virtue of her Aug. 13 primary victory, Kaaihue is already the Republican nominee in the race for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, the seat held by Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.
Kaaihue’s candidacy has gained wide attention because of her remarks about the religions of Gabbard and former Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, and for remarks about Japanese-Americans in general.
Gabbard is the only Hindu serving in Congress, and Kaaihue’s smears have made headlines in India, a predominantly Hindu nation.
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She will nonetheless remain on the general election ballot for the CD2 contest, as the deadline to file a complaint expired in mid-June.
In the case of the CD1 special election, however, the Democratic Party has until Sept. 9 to file its objection. An objection can also come from a registered voter or the state’s chief election officer.
The special election for the 1st Congressional District, covering urban Oahu, is to fill the remainder of Takai’s current term, through Jan. 3. It is being held at the same time as the Nov. 8 general election contests for two for full two-year terms in CD1 and CD2, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
Gabbard is a near-lock on being re-elected in CD2.
Still, twice this week her campaign sent out requests for campaign donations referencing Kaaihue, a Christian, who has attacked Gabbard’s Hindu faith.
“The essence of her campaign is that, because I am a Hindu, ‘a vote for Tulsi is a vote for Satan,'” Gabbard says in one of the emails.
Hanabusa, who easily won the CD1 primary, is widely favored to win the seat outright and return to Washington, D.C. She is also heavily favored in the special election.
Should Hanabusa prevail in both races Nov. 8, she would serve from then until the new Congress begins Jan. 3 and then be sworn in again for a full two-year term.
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