On the surface, flyers showing up recently in some Eastside and North Shore mailboxes appear to be just more political information about a candidate.
But those who took the time to read the pamphlets realize that, although the name Nelson Secretario is prominently displayed in capital letters, the pieces are actually the work of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i, intimating that a vote for Republican Secretario is a vote for big gas and oil companies, and that incumbent Democratic state Rep. Mina Morita (north Kaua’i, east Maui) has no strings attached to big oil, unlike Secretario.
Morita said she knew nothing about the mailings until she got one in her mailbox, and at first thought when she saw Secretario’s name on two mailings that she’d better get busy because she hadn’t sent one mailing yet.
After reading the Democratic Party’s flyer, though, she realized she was going to have to defend herself against claims from Secretario and other Republicans that she and her party are resorting to dirty campaign tactics.
Both Morita and her party’s statewide coordinated mailing campaign confirmed that the mailings were done without Morita’s knowledge or approval, and if it was done with her knowledge or approval it would have been against campaign laws.
That mattered little yesterday to Secretario, who was walking house-to-house in Hanalei.
“It’s really underhanded,” he said. “We’re getting our message out and the Democratic Party of Hawai’i is really nervous about this election.”
“Shame on the Democratic Party of Hawai’i,” said Secretario, who has heard even from Democratic candidates and party members on Kaua’i who found the mailings offensive. “People are pretty upset about that, at this type of slur campaign.”
The existence of the pamphlets doesn’t entice him to work harder, he said. “I have a plan, and I’m sticking to the plan, regardless. We’ll work all the way to the end.
“To me, for the party to send out this, the party is doing this just to hang on to control,” said Secretario. “To me, we have a good chance, and I’m positive about my race. This is a good example why we should have government reform.”
Ironically, Morita received $500 from the Tesoro Hawaii Corporation oil company’s political action committee, and the anti-Secretario flyer states that Morita will fight for “campaign finance reform that keeps gas and oil money out of Hawai’i campaigns.”
Morita is pragmatic about accepting the donation, saying if she didn’t they would give the money to Secretario.
“Actually, I was pretty surprised that I got the (Tesoro) money, after the gas-cap bill,” she said.
Some of her constituents have called Morita, finding the mailing offensive.
“I think the gist of it is correct, that the amount of money that’s coming into the state from oil and gas interests (is) being funneled either to the Republican Party or to Linda Lingle’s campaign,” she said. “I think that’s well documented. But I certainly would have crafted the message differently.”
Morita was correct in her thoughts about having to defend herself to constituents regarding mailings she knew nothing about until she received them herself.
Also yesterday, long-time Republicans from Princeville and other areas in the district, which now encompasses areas from Ha’ena to Wailua, objected to the mailings, and blamed Morita for the contents despite the presence on the flyers of the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s return address and the disclaimer that the party paid for the mailing and that the message “was not approved or authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.”
“What is she, just a puppet for the Democratic Party?” asked Ron Agor, chair of the Republican Party of Kaua’i. He hopes that successful candidates will work for the people, not the party.
Is the party in control of her seat and campaign, or is she? he asked.
“I know Mina. She’s a sweet lady, and she wouldn’t do this, unless they did a poll and it looks like it’s close and she got convinced to do it by the panel that they sent down from the Democratic National Committee,” said Agor.
“We don’t send anything out on their (candidates’) behalf without their endorsement of it,” he added.
Kim Devlin, director of the state House and Senate caucuses of the Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign, said the number-one priority of the party is to get Democratic incumbents re-elected.
Although Secretario didn’t vote against the gas-cap legislation, most House and Senate Republicans voted against it, Devlin said. So, if Lingle and Secretario are elected, and Lingle has already promised to repeal the gas-cap law, would Secretario vote along the party line knowing that he received $2,000 from the Republican Party in Hawai’i, and knowing further that the Republican Party in Hawai’i received over $30,000 from the oil and gas industry? Devlin asked.
The mailings amount to “insurance” taken out by the party to help Morita get re-elected, Devlin said. The party has sent similar mailings in other races where it has felt candidates could use the boost, she added.
“We feel very, very confident in Representative Morita, the good work that she’s done in her district and for her constituents, and we believe strongly because of her hard work and voting record, especially authoring the bottle bill, that we believe her record will carry her over, across the finish line.
“We have no doubt that she’s out there, she is putting that message out, or all of her accomplishments, and she I know is working very, very hard in trying to meet and talk to as many voters as she can before election day, and in fact throughout her terms,” said Devlin.
Morita received 2,818 votes in the primary election, and remains concerned about the 1,437 blank votes in the single-party primary. She said those blank votes could go either way during the Tuesday, Nov. 5 general election.
Secretario received 745 votes, and there were 515 blank votes among those in the 14th House district who took Republican ballots.
Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).