Hawai'i GOP Divided But Eyes 2018

Jul 3, 2017

East O'ahu Republicans meet in Hawai'i Kai.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

The 2018 Primary Election is a little more than a year away.  Hawai’i Republicans are trying to organize for that election and win.  HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka attended a GOP meeting Saturday and filed this report.

“I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…”

More than 30 Republicans met in Hawai’i Kai.  State Representative  Gene Ward is one of 5 Republicans in the 51-member House of Representatives.

“Here’s the issue, my fellow Republicans.  If you got 26 votes – this is Speaker Souki telling me – if got 26 votes and you’re Speaker, you can do anything.  And that’s where the numbers make a difference.”

There are no Republicans in Hawai’i’s Congressional Delegation.  The Governor is a Democrat, and Sam Slom lost his East O’ahu seat in 2016 leaving zero Republicans in the state senate.  He says Republicans need to stand up for the Party.

Sam Slom

“In the last 3 elections, the top Republican leaders running – not as Republicans – but as bi-partisan, as centrists, as something other than Republicans.  If to Republicans run away from the brand, how can we hope to attract young people and new people.”

But, the Hawai’i GOP Party remains divided.    Mark Blackburn was elected State Party Treasurer in May.  He says the path to victory for the Hawai’i GOP is clear.

“What the conversation was today.  Calling people out and saying, ‘Look, we’re on Team Republican here, let’s move forward.’  Our President of the United States has given us the direction and the way and shown us how to lead.  And it’s time now that we can turn the state from being blue to red.”

Willes Lee is a former State Party Chair, currently national director for the Hawai’i Republican Assembly, the conservative arm of the Hawai’i GOP.

“Until the party’s willing to reach out to all factions of the party and all the coalitions, we’re not going to be together.  I believe we need conservative solutions and conservative candidates.  The party obviously believes differently and they want to be more like Democrat Light.”

But. O’ahu County Chair, Brett Kulbris, who was elected from the conservative faction, says the plan is for the Republican National Committee to help.

“The RNC’s gonna come and train and we want a bunch of people to show up for the training so that we can get on to the GOP data center and get training on how to canvass,  how to make phone calls and what we need to train voters and obviously build enthusiasm for the Republican Party.”

A date has not been set for the RNC training in Hawai’i.  The GOP is also organizing a Party Platform Committee to develop a standardized message for candidates.  Pat Saiki, a former Hawai’i Congresswoman and state lawmaker, is now the Vice Chair for Coordinated Campaigns.

“I’m trying to have them to re-focus on finding candidates, getting the grassroots activated, setting the climate for Republicans to be elected to office and get new people elected so that we can make a difference in the legislature.”

Tom White of Waikiki will provide ideas for the platform committee but says the Hawai’i GOP must turn the situation around, soon.

“Republicans are tired of losing.  It’s very demoralizing.  And that also prevents good people with a lot of good qualifications who think, ‘Why knock my head against the wall and run.’   So basically you get a one party system which isn’t good for anybody because no new ideas are bubbling up or they’re bubbling up from behind closed doors.”

The sign-up for candidates running in the 2018 Election starts February 1st.  Wayne Yoshioka, HPR News.