BY LAURA BROWN – Two Hawaiian hawks flew over a gathering of Kona Tea Party members at a Big Island residence in an area called “Kona Heavens” last Thursday evening.
They watched in awe as the once endangered species, the ‘io in Hawaiian, circled above the gathering.
Some saw the appearance of the birds as an auspicious sign that Conservatives in Hawaii, too, are making their way back from an “endangered species” list thanks to the rise of local Tea Parties on the Big Island, Maui, Kauai and Oahu.
About 30 members had gathered that evening to witness a phone call from Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, who would endorse Republicans John Willoughby for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District and Scott “Hendo” Henderson, House Representative for the 7th district of West Hawaii.
Palin, candidate for vice president in 2008, has endorsed 6 other Tea Party candidates around the country this election year who have all have won their races.
Charlie and Vickie Bussell, who live part time in Hawaii and Alaska and know Palin, hosted the event to support to Willoughby who is running against US Rep. Mazie Hirono (D), and Henderson who is opposing Rep. Cindy Evans (D).
Henderson and his wife, both FBI agents, knew Sarah Palin when they were based in Alaska. “Sarah and I had met in 1999. I interviewed her as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, because we were sending one of her police officers to the FBI national academy. I had no idea then that she would become governor of a state, and I would run for office. It is an interesting twist of events.”
Henderson says he is for lower and simplifying taxes, reforming Hawaii’s education system and bringing accountability to government departments. He also is an advocate of developing geothermal energy on the island of Hawaii.
Willoughby told the crowd that he will fight for lower taxes, smaller government and accountability, and that he is not a “career politician,” but a common citizen seeking public office. He pledges that, if elected, he will serve no more than two terms.
Hirono, questioned by the Star-Advertiser about the surprise endorsement, said: “It is odd for my opponent to seek Ms. Palin’s endorsement, but it tells us that he is out of touch with the values of the people of Hawaii.”
Victor Limacher, manager for the Wastewater & Pump Specialties, counters, “Mazie Hirono is the most unresponsive representative ever put into office. Why did she vote for the national health care bill? That’s just going to cost us more money. Hawaii has its own health care law.”
Supporters say both Willoughby and Henderson reflect the sentiments and character of the members of the Kona Tea Party and other Tea Party members across the State.
Henderson says that Tea Party candidates will succeed, because they have a “vision,” while many of the status quo candidates only care about getting re-elected.
Rita Grove, a founder of the West Hawaii Patriots, says that she and her husband are non-partisan conservatives. “We want adherence to the Constitution. We’ve never been political before. We just want to do what we can do to make a difference,” she says.
Grove says that both Willoughby and Henderson are dedicated individuals with integrity and both have a pure heart.
Marc Hodges, founder of the Maui Tea Party, also took up the fight for less government and lower taxes. He became a Maui candidate for mayor in an attempt, he says, to bring prosperity back to Maui. “Most of our leaders in federal, state and local governments are piling on major new taxes and regulations. At the very time our families need to cut costs to survive, these unprecedented new taxes and regulations on energy, health care, purchasing, and property are making almost everything we need to live and work here more expensive,” says Hodges.
Maui Tea Party Activist Annie Rupp is throwing her support behind Willoughby: “John Willoughby is a true American Statesman, not a politician.”
A September poll taken of likely Hawaii voters taken by the Merriman River Group found that about 10 percent of voters identified with the Tea Party, while the majority of those polled were older, Asian females who traditionally vote Democratic.
While the trend is slight, the grassroots Tea Party is making its mark on Hawaii’s political landscape. Members say that they are “the kind of folks that proudly display the American flag and demonstrate their love of our country.”
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The link to the recording of Sarah Palin’s call may be viewed here: http://www.palintv.com/2010/10/08/governor-palin-call-in-to-hawaii-for-john-willoughby-and-scott-hendo-henderson/