Hawaii Republicans have a once in quarter century opportunity to elect a Republican to U.S. Senate. That was the rally cry from Former Governor turned U.S. Senate Candidate Linda Lingle to Hawaii Republicans at the Saturday GOP convention.
“The chance to elect a United States Senator from Hawaii happens on average once every 25 years. Let’s make the most of this once in a quarter of a century opportunity.”
Lingle, who will likely challenge either Congress member Mazie Hirono or former Congressman Ed Case in the General Election, reminded Republicans she faced a similar challenge in the 2002 governor’s election.
“Let’s come together once again to make history like we did 10 years ago when I beat Mazie the first time,” Lingle said. “I am confident that this is a winnable race. But it sure won’t be easy.”
Hawaii is one of the bluest states in the nation, with Democrats holding all four Congressional seats, all but nine seats in the 76- member Legislature, and the governor’s seat. With President Barack Obama up for re-election, political observers expect Democrats will have a higher than normal turnout to support Obama, who spent his childhood here.
Lingle has focused her political messaging in this U.S. Senate campaign on her “bipartisanship” and noted that when she was a Republican governor with a Democratically controlled state legislature, they were able to work together.
She said bipartisanship is important in Congress, which is bitterly divided along philosophical and party lines.
“I don’t understand both political parties – here at home and in Washington – who oppose bipartisanship, compromise and collaboration. I don’t understand them because the problems we face are not Democrat problems, they are not Republican problems, they are American problems and we will have to come together to solve them. This is what the people of Hawaii expect and this is what the people all across America expect,” Lingle said.
“If the American people approve of the bickering and the partisanship going on in Washington dc, then the rating of the approval of our Congress would be 90 percent, not 9 percent as they have today,” she added.
Lingle, who has been consistent in her bipartisan messaging in her commercials and press releases, said the person serving in a bipartisan fashion “does not mean going whichever way the wind blows.”
“Compromise and collaboration, does not mean turning away from liberty, limited government, individual responsibility, fiscal accountability, and equality of opportunity,” Lingle said. “In fact, I believe these are same values shared by almost everyone in the state of Hawaii.”
Charles Djou, who served in Congress in 2010 for 6 months after a special election, and then lost to then Senate President Colleen Hanabusa in the 2010 General Election, is challenging Hanabusa again for that seat.
Lingle said she and Djou have talked a great deal about what it would take to win their respective races. Besides a solid track record, platform, and committee campaign team; positive messaging; and successful fundraising, Lingle said they need a party that is united and committed to victory.
She asked the 302 Republicans at the event to make a commitment to Republican candidates and people of Hawaii so they can elect a more balanced government that works in a bipartisan fashion.
Djou, who has served in the Honolulu City Council, Hawaii State Legislature and Congress, and is also in the U.S, Army Reserve, shared some of his stories from his recent deployment in Afghanistan. He is the only member of Congress to be deployed to the Middle East, and said he had previously voted on funding for the operation while in Washington DC. His comments focused on fixing Washington politics.
“I am here to tell all of you that we can change things. We do not have to accept the status quo. We do not have to accept a government that does not function or work. We do not have to accept a Congress that is so bitter, that is divisive, that it cannot get anything done. We know this,” Djou said.
Djou said his six month deployment into one of the most dangerous regions in the world helped him not only understand the evil we face, and the heroics of America’s armed forces, but also allowed him to put politics into perspective.
“I am also here to tell you that as difficult as the problems are that our nation faces, they are not as difficult as facing down the Taliban intent on doing pure evil. And as difficult as the solutions are to fixing, our nation’s problems, as challenging as they may be, they are not as challenging as what we have asked our service members to do in Afghanistan. …. It is important for us to fight and not accept anything less for our nation,” Djou said.
Hawaii legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom, House Minority Leader Gene Ward, Rep. George Fontaine and Rep. Gil Riviere shared insight and highlights from the legislative session that ended May 3.
They noted Republicans helped kill several bills that would have hurt Hawaii’s precious environment by fast tracking the city’s planned rail project and other government projects.
There are several interesting candidates running as Republicans this year who participated in the “parade of (60) candidates.”
They include two beauty queens: Miss Hawaii 2012 Lauren Cheape who is running for a new House seat in Mililani, and Tiffany Au, the 2012 Narcissus Queen who is running for a new House seat in downtown Honolulu.
Marissa Capeluto, an immigrant from the Philippines who has become a successful and outspoken Oahu businesswoman, and Navy veteran and business consultant Matt Digeronimo, who is running for the second Congressional seat, also participated in the parade.
The Republicans hold their state conventions every year and alternate between Oahu and a neighbor island, with Oahu always the site during the election year.
The turnout this year is one of the lowest Oahu totals in recent years, and party members offer several reasons.
First, the party’s annual major fundraiser, the Lincoln Day Dinner, usually held in conjunction with Lincoln’s birthday in February, was not held until April 20, 2012. The delay came because of party in-fighting that resulted in the ouster of then party chair, Jonah Kaauwai, who parenthetically was never mentioned at this convention.
However the dispute and delay resulted in Republicans having to pay a minimum of $150 to attend the April 20th event and then a minimum of $140 just three weeks later to register for the convention. Neighbor islanders had the additional expense of record high interisland airfares and pricey hotel rates at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Second, there were a number of Republicans who are weary of the infighting that has taken place, not only for the chairmanship, but for the post of national committeeman.
Former State Senator and former Party Chairman John Carroll, who is challenging Lingle, was frustrated by the party’s unwillingness to allow him to speak and Lingle’s unwillingness to accept a primary election debate.
In addition, there are no well-known Republican contenders for the Second Congressional District seat and the lack of outside speakers also lessened the draw.
The applause and passion for Lingle was markedly subdued compared to her previous runs and part of that can be attributed to her message of bipartisanship, which did not resonate uniformly with all Republican delegates and candidates at the convention.
In January, Ted Liu, Lingle’s former director of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, defeated long time party activist and former party chair Willes Lee in a contested 31-30 state central committee election for national committee chairman.
Lee, the former party chair, challenged Liu again during the convention. There were a great deal of critical emails circulating during both of their campaigns and Republicans said it got downright nasty at times. Both sides were firmly entrenched and it became a referendum on party insiders versus many regular delegates.
Several minutes before the scheduled 2 pm. election process, a rumor circulated that if Lee won, new young state chairman and Lingle protégé David Chang would resign. During the nomination process for Liu, Chang’s finance and a vice-chairman of the party Beth Fukumoto broke down in tears in her advocacy for Liu.
Minority Senate Leader, Sam Slom, who spoke on behalf of Lee, said in more than 40 years of attending Republican conventions, he never saw two candidates slug it out more for a position that pays nothing and requires them to pay a considerable sum of their own money to serve the party.
In the end, Liu triumphed by 32 votes. Miriam Hellrich, who has served for more than a decade as national committeewoman, faced no opposition and was elected by acclamation.
Hawaii Democrats will hold their convention in two weeks.
See related videos: