Comment: Youth and newfound energy cross paths in Hawaii’s Republican party

Steve Jackson

Elephant in the Room
with Steve Jackson

HONOLULU—Hawaii’s Republican Party is at a crossroads, with much to gain in the coming elections.

Conservatives in Hawaii recognize this as a pivotal moment if there will be any change in the way Hawaii is governed. They believe that a wave of problems brought on by government excess, along with Democratic infighting, gives them the perfect opportunity for a political coup. It could be a historic election for Republicans in Hawaii, or a monumental failure.

The race for the governor’s seat is a potential knockout for two popular Democratic candidates: former Mayor Mufi Hannemann and former Congressman Neil Abercrombie.

The race already provided the opening for a special election in which former Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou took Abercrombie’s vacant Congressional House seat by beating former Congressman Ed Case and State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa—who had split the Democratic party’s vote.

Hannemann’s announcement last month to run for governor puts the mayoral seat up for grabs, giving Republican Panos Prevedouros a similar winner-take-all election with two years left on the term.

Hannemann, Abercrombie, and Hanabusa could all potentially be out of government in November with Republican victories.

The governor’s race and the recent U.S. House special election also provide residual effects. There will be less money to go around for the Democratic party with so many seats up for grabs and allegiances split among candidates. Younger Republican candidates trying to pick up seats in the Legislature may have an easier time by riding the momentum of Djou’s victory and vocalizing solutions to so many contentious issues in Hawaii.

A wave of enthusiasm followed the Djou campaign and Tea party movement. Many Republican volunteers and donors in Hawaii are already mobilized. The success of the Djou campaign and the prospect of a change in local government provides hope for Republicans and a sense of urgency.

Democratic power grabs and miscalculations may provide the catalyst for further gains. Furlough Fridays, underemployment, and a perceived shortage in private sector jobs are encouraging a younger crowd to engage in the political process. We’ll see if that translates into Republican victories come September and November.

In the segments to follow, I hope to provide the readers of The Hawaii Independent with an unambiguous picture of what the new candidates would like to offer. I will conduct interviews, write on popular battleground spots, comment on political happenings, and highlight events open to the public so readers can see where the Republican party now stands in a state that has been dominated for so long by Democrats.