Jonah Kaauwai had encouraging words for his fellow Hawaii Republicans as they met at the Kauai Beach Resort on Saturday.
Kaauwai, the party’s chairman, said Newt Gingrich told the Hawaii GOP during his Honolulu visit that it took Republicans 41 years to turn his home state of Georgia into a 60-percent Republican majority.
“If we are not shooting for the stars we will never make it to the sun,” said Kaauwai, who was re-elected to another two-year term as chair. “I’m not the only crazy one, am I?”
The party assured Kaauwai that he is not crazy, and that the party is as passionate and dedicated as ever to achieving real two-party government in the islands — something that has happened only fleetingly since the 1950s.
That was a major theme coming out of the party’s annual convention, held this year on Kauai in part because Kaauwai is a Kauai boy.
But another big theme was the need to raise money — lots of it — not just to pay off debt from the 2010 campaign and fuel races in 2012, but also to keep up payments on the party’s Kapiolani Boulevard headquarters.
Outgoing party treasurer Kathi Thomason was direct in her plea to the party.
“We are passing around a calabash basket,” she told members from the podium. “Take out what cash you have, commit to helping your party, we need to fundraise and to fundraise starting right now.”
Miriam Hellreich, who as a confidant of campaigns for Linda Lingle and James “Duke” Aiona and the party’s national committee woman knows a little about raising money, stressed the same point her speech.
“We have to address the elephant in the room,” she said, well aware that the elephant is the party’s historic symbol. “Competing in 2012 requires raising a lot of money. We were outspent 3-to-1 in 2010.”
The plea for cash came from candidates, too, like state Rep. George Fontaine.
“I need money — seriously,” he said, after telling delegates how he had fought against tax increases in the Hawaii Legislature.
Another freshman lawmaker, Rep. Aaron Johanson, placed campaign literature and a contribution form before every delegate’s chair.
The state party fielded a record number of candidates for local and national offices last year, and, while they ended up mostly on the losing side, money (as the saying goes) is the mother’s milk of elections
The calabash basket pulled in nearly $4,000. And Hellreich said singer Lee Greenwood has volunteered to perform in Honolulu in August as part of a “red-white-and-blue, burn-the mortgage dinner.”
A private donor will cover Greenwood’s traveling expenses.
Another big theme from the GOP convention is universal disdain for Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
House Minority Leader Gene Ward played a video showing the infamous interchange between Rep. Barbara Marumoto and Abercrombie at the Capitol earlier this year over taxing pension income.
When the governor said, “$37,500 in pension income is a lot more than I am getting,” Republicans howled and rolled their eyes.
“That was the first nail in the coffin for the pension tax,” Ward said, proudly.
Ted Hong, an attorney, unsuccessful GOP candidate and a Lingle judicial nominee, showed a slide of Abercrombie, Ben Cayetano and John Radcliffe, warning that Radcliffe “will change the future of Hawaii forever” because of his active lobbying on the part of gaming interests.
“We’ve got to write checks big and small,” Hong said.
Hong took two other shots at Democrats.
He said the only criteria for appointments to the Abercrombie administration were that they contributed money to him or worked on his campaign. (Note: A Civil Beat analysis of Abercrombie appointees found that 25 percent had donated to his campaign. We found that 20 percent of Lingle’s appointees in her first legislative session had donated to her campaign.)
He also made allegations against Sen. Clayton Hee — “the poster child for a culture of fear” — that Hee would only approve the governor’s nominees if they purchased political fundraising tickets.
Hellreich said the GOP’s greatest ammunition might come from the recent performance by Abercrombie and Democrat lawmakers.
“The governor and the Legislature are making so many mistakes, they are an unbelievable target,” she said. “When the Israelites saw Goliath, he was so big they thought they could never defeat him. When David looked at the same giant, he said, “He’s such a big target, how can we miss?”
In his remarks, Aiona also brought up the session and the man to whom he lost the governorship, as well as his view that there is media bias against Republicans.
“If that doesn’t bring you fire in the belly, I don’t know what else will,” he said.
Aiona indicated he would seek a rematch in 2014 against Abercrombie but did not declare it. Charles Djou, however, said he “looked forward” to changing Hawaii’s lack of bipartisan representation in the U.S. House.
Balanced representation, locally and in Washington, is the top goal of Hawaii’s Republican Party.
In spite of their thumping in 2010, Chair Kaauwai said the party fielded 97 candidates in the primary and 61 out of 63 races in the general. He said the party had strengthened its grassroots, grew the volunteer base and focused candidates on platform issues like fiscal accountability and limited government.
Lingle, still her party’s head and star, told the party she was doing her “due diligence” and was “seriously considering” a run for Daniel Akaka‘s Senate seat next year.
“He did something interesting — he gave us a heads up and told us long in advance so someone would have an even shot at running and winning,” Lingle said of Akaka. “He could have resigned with six months or a year left, and a Democratic governor would make an appointment. But Sen Akaka did not do that. And because of that, the seat is wide open.”
Can a Republican win in a Democratic state in a year that a native son is on the presidential ballot? Lingle believes so, noting that Republicans actually picked up seven seats in the state House in 2000 — the year George W. Bush only won 37 percent of the presidential vote.
“It means that Hawaii people may vote one way nationally and one way locally, so when you say President Obama is on the ticker, a favorite son, sure, but history shows people voted for candidates that where good for their districts, their families, their businesses.”