Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) pulled her support last Thursday for a bill that would rename a post office in Hawaii honoring late Rep. Cecil Heftel (D-Hawaii) after learning that Heftel's widow objected to the measure.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Charles Djou (R-Hawaii), whose district Heftel represented in Congress for 9 years (1977-1986).
In a letter to Djou, Heftel’s widow, Rebecca Glass Heftel, wrote that the move to rename the post office (which isn't quite as grand as this one, in Honolulu) comes as “a complete surprise.” According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, she requested that Djou stop all his post office-related efforts related to her late husband.
In an odd twist, Heftel’s children initially gave Djou permission to move forward, according to the paper.
Reached for comment, Hirono told ITK she initially supported the bill “in the spirit of bipartisanship” because post office naming bills are not passed without the support of the entire state delegation in which the facility is located.
But now that Heftel’s widow made her opposition public, Hirono says that the bill should not come before the House for a vote.
“Since this renaming has caused such a public rift within the Heftel family, I do not believe that this matter should move forward at this time,” she said.
Meanwhile, Djou's press secretary told ITK in an email that the lawmaker wants only to honor a devoted public servant, and he's willing to work with all involved parties to do so.
"Congressman Djou repeatedly reached out to Congressman Heftel’s widow, [and] she still has not returned his messages," said Djou spokesman Daniel Son.
Son also implied that the source of the controversy might be political: Djou is the first Republican to hold the congressional seat in more than 20 years. "If party affiliation is the cause for Mrs. Heftel’s opposition, Congressman Djou is willing to step aside and allow Congresswoman Hirono to lead the way in honoring the life of a devoted public servant.”