House Dismisses Pair of ‘Frivolous’ Election Contests

Posted July 15, 2003 at 6:46pm

The House on Tuesday quietly dismissed the first two formal election contests since the 1996 dispute between Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) and ex-Rep. Bob Dornan (R).

Although that contest, centering on allegations of illegal voting, was considered by both sides to be a serious one, the two that were disposed of by unanimous consent yesterday — one against Tennessee Rep. Bart Gordon (D) and one against Hawaii Rep. Ed Case (D) — were deemed by lawmakers to have essentially no merit.

“We’ve got two basically frivolous election contests here,” said House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio).

The complaint against Case was filed by Steve Tataii, who garnered just nine votes against Case and more than 40 other candidates in the January special election to represent Hawaii’s 2nd district.

The seat was vacant following the October 2002 passing of Rep. Patsy Mink (D), who died after a long illness. Tataii alleged in his complaint that Mink should not have been on the September Democratic primary ballot because her illness made her unfit to serve.

In his filing with the House Administration Committee, Tataii complained that Mink was listed on the primary ballot as a “qualified” candidate. “SHE WAS NOT,” wrote Tataii, who took 17 percent of the vote in that primary.

Tataii also claimed to have heard from “anonymous supporters” that Mink had actually died several weeks before the primary and that her family and staff kept it secret.

In Tataii’s view, the entire saga was “a self-serving setup exclusively benefiting a few insider politicians, and their cronies, orchestrated by the incompetent and corrupt Democratic party chair, Lorraine Akiba, interferences by [Hawaii Rep.] Neil Abercrombie [D] and others who were behind this overt plot to manufacture the two special elections.”

Tataii found it inconceivable that he received only “9!!!” votes in the January special election, given that he received more than 14,000 in the September primary. He argued that House Administration should either call for a new special election or simply name him to Case’s seat, since, by Tataii’s logic, he should have won the primary and then would have had clear sailing to victory in November.

According to his Web site — tataiiforcongress.com — Tataii is an “Independent Conflict Resolution Consultant on [the] macro level in Local, National, and International Conflicts.”

“I’m actually quite surprised and in a way, devastated, because I’ve worked very hard to get justice and this was the last entity that I highly expected to win at. Unfortunately that was not the case,” Tataii said in an interview Tuesday after the House dismissed his complaint.

Case did not return a call seeking comment.

The other complaint, filed against Gordon by former Republican candidate J. Patrick Lyons, also made some unusual claims.

Lyons, who received less than 2 percent of the vote against Gordon in 2002, argued that the Constitution does not allow House Members to run for re-election without first resigning from their seats.

“Nowhere in the Constitution … does it state or even suggest that an incumbent is able to take a Congressional seat, but rather a successor shall,” Lyons wrote.

The second strand of Lyons’ complaint said that, as a member of the Tennessee bar, Gordon is technically a judicial officer, making his election to the House a violation of the separation of powers. Lyons peppered his complaint with lengthy quotes from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

Like Tataii, Lyons believes House Administration should award him the seat, even though he actually came in third in the 2002 race, because he was the one who filed the complaint.

“The [complaint] was totally bogus and was rejected as such,” Gordon said in a statement.

There was no answer at the phone number Lyons listed on his complaint.