Republicans played a significant role in shaping Hawaii before statehood, but the Democratic Party of Hawaii has largely dominated government and politics in the islands ever since.
Although a party system developed following the 1887 Bayonet Constitution that took power away from the Hawaiian monarchy, political parties in Hawaii first became dominant when Hawaii was a territory (1900-1959). The Hawaii Republican Party traces its origins to the Missionary Party, which was formed by the descendants of Protestant missionaries from New England who first arrived in the early 19th century.
Republicans, whose party dominated the Legislature until 1954, represented business interests and the ruling elite of white men. Some members were instrumental in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Many streets, highways, schools, office buildings and shopping centers still carry their names — Kuhio, Bingham, Dole, Thurston, Farrington, Dillingham, Alexander & Baldwin, Castle & Cooke, to name a few.
Some of the most significant territorial governors of Hawaii were Republican, including Sanford B. Dole, the first governor and a central player in Hawaii’s transition from a monarchy to a republic and then a territory, and Wallace R. Farrington. Hawaii’s territorial legislature was controlled by Republicans until 1954, when Democrats took over both the House and Senate.
Since statehood in 1959, Hawaii Democrats have dominated federal, state and county government, though Republicans have produced several leaders who have managed to have an impact. Still, it is usually the case that Democrats are able to field several strong candidates for offices while Republicans find it difficult to field even one.