Sai Timoteo, the Republican state House District 43 candidate who was deemed ineligible to run because she was born in American Samoa and is not a U.S. citizen, is fighting back.

On July 23, the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office, acting on behalf of the Office of Elections, sent Timoteo a letter stating that she was a citizen of American Samoa and therefore not eligible to vote or run for state office. Scott Nago, chief of the elections office, issued a proclamation Friday saying Timoteo was no longer a candidate for office because she was not a qualified voter of her district.

On Monday, Timoteo objected to the state’s decision in a letter to Deputy Attorney General Valri Lei Kunimoto and requested that the office rescind the proclamation. Timoteo acknowledged to Civil Beat that she is not a U.S. citizen.

Sailau Timoteo was the lone Republican candidate running to represent HD 43. Screenshot:

She pointed to a state law that says the state’s deadline to object to a candidate is 60 days prior to the primary election, which would have been in June. The same law also says Nago should file a legal complaint on the matter within seven days of objecting to a candidate’ eligibility to run. Court records do not indicate that he has done so yet.

Another section of the law, she wrote, requires the county clerk, who oversees voter registration, to reach out to voters who are under investigation regarding their eligibility to vote.

Timoteo noted in her letter that the note she received from the AG’s office did not specify who objected to her candidacy and pointed to a portion of the law that states the process taken to disqualify a candidate depends on who initiated the objection.

She asked to see documentation from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that warrants her disqualification.

“If she is being disqualified, then they need to follow this process,” said Hawaii GOP chair Shirlene Ostrov. “We’re stuck in limbo because that trigger (notifying the party) has never happened yet.”

The AG’s office maintains that the terms for disqualification don’t apply because Timoteo’s nomination papers were incomplete.

“Ms. Timoteo did not provide valid certification that she is a U.S. citizen because she is not, in fact, a U.S. citizen,” wrote Dana Viola, first deputy attorney general, in an email to Civil Beat.

Viola cited a state law that requires candidates to take an oath affirming that they legally qualify to run. The law goes on to state that nomination papers without the requirements will be voided.

The office conducted an independent investigation and confirmed that Timoteo was a U.S. national rather than a citizen, Viola wrote.

Democrats Stacelynn Kehaulani Eli and Michael Jesus Juarez are also running for the District 43 seat that is being vacated by Republican Rep. Andria Tupola, who is running for governor. There are only five Republicans in the House of Representatives, and Tupola had endorsed Timoteo’s candidacy.

Angela Kaaihue, who made headlines in 2016 as a congressional candidate for her derogatory remarks about people of Japanese ancestry and non-Christian faiths, is a nonpartisan candidate in the race. She would need to secure 10 percent of all votes cast in the race to advance to the general election, or as many votes as her winning Democratic competitor.

Read Timoteo’s full letter here:

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