Top Republicans in Hawaii are calling for the resignation of party chair Jonah Kaauwai.

In a Sept. 18 letter to state committee members, the Hawaii Republican Party‘s executive committee says that the responsibility of a party chair is to elect more Republicans to office.

“Unfortunately, a majority of members of the Party have lost confidence in the leadership of the current chair and his ability to guide the Party to success in the upcoming election year,” committee members say.

The letter, whose signatories include House Minority Leader Gene Ward and former party chair Brennon Morioka, says that former Gov. Linda Lingle, former U.S. Reps. Charles Djou and Pat Saiki, the entire House caucus “and many other potential candidates and members of the HRP have stated their loss of confidence in the chair and have openly asked Jonah to step down.”

Religious Views

Civil Beat left messages with Kaauwai, Ward, Morioka and other members of the executive committee.

Lingle associate Lenny Klompus declined to comment. Assistant Minority Leader Cynthia Thielen directed inquiries to Ward, while Saiki directed inquiries to Kaauwai, adding, “There is always a lot of unrest.”

However, a high-ranking party member confirmed that the party letter is authentic.

Kaauwai was elected party chair in 2009 and re-elected this May. But many party members have been unhappy with him because he has failed to elect more Republicans.

The party has also faced financial challenges in paying for its state headquarters on Kapiolani Boulevard, and Kaauwai’s religious views invited unwanted attention on the party.

In the 2010 elections, Kaauwai stressed the need for Hawaii to elect Christian candidates. He wrote a letter, posted on the website of the Hawaii Christian Coalition, that said in part:

“The Primary Election is the first step to bringing back a righteous leader to the highest office in this State which has not been seen since Queen Liliuokalani. Over 100 years ago! With more than 400,000 Christians in the State of Hawaii, WE are responsible no matter what the outcome of Duke’s race because we have been given the POWER and the AUTHORITY in the NAME OF JESUS!!!!”

And this:

“For the Body of Christ to think Duke Aiona will lose to either Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann in the general election is not a church operating in FAITH but operating in FEAR,” wrote Kaauwai. “This is a strategy that is preparing to fail rather than prevail. And only a faithful Church will elect Duke in the general election…”

James “Duke” Aiona was the GOP candidate for governor in 2010.

Like Kaauwai, Aiona is a devout Christian.

Aiona’s name is not listed in the executive committee letter calling for Kaauwai’s resignation.

The executive committee did not identify a potential replacement.

Read the Full Letter

September 18, 2011

Aloha Fellow Republican Party State Committee Members,

As members of the executive committee of the Hawai’i Republican Party (HRP), we the undersigned are writing to share the reasons underlying our unanimously passed motion to remove Jonah Kaauwai as chair of the Hawai’i Republican Party at the upcoming State Committee meeting confirmed for October 15, 2011.

The job of the HRP chair is to elect Republicans. The Chairman of the Party, with the advice and consent of the executive committee has general supervision of the affairs of the Party.

Unfortunately, a majority of members of the Party have lost confidence in the leadership of the current chair and his ability to guide the Party to success in the upcoming election year. Governor Linda Lingle, a potential candidate for US Senate; Congressman Charles Djou and candidate for CD1; Congresswoman Pat Saiki; the entire House Caucus including House Minority Leader Gene Ward, Representatives Corinne Ching, George Fontaine, Aaron Johanson, Barbara Marumoto, Kimberly Pine, Gil Riviere, Cynthia Thielen; and many other potential candidates and members of the HRP have stated their loss of confidence in the chair and have openly asked Jonah to step down. In private, many have tried to speak with Jonah about mutually beneficial action steps that would not adversely affect the Party or Jonah and his family.

This is neither a personal attack against the chair or the “establishment” moving to take over the Party. Those asking for the chair to step down are inter-generational, inter-cultural, and come from a myriad of experiences and differing viewpoints. This is not an ideological battle. Elected Representatives, pastors, religious leaders, businessmen, combat veterans, long-time and short-time volunteers, current and past candidates, students, and many others are part of the group concerned with the future of the Party and believe a change in leadership is required today before the Party’s financial situation as well as federal guideline violations are exacerbated to the ruination of all that has been built.

We should also point out, that this situation has gone beyond our shores. It is the subject of numerous conversations in Washington. Simply stated, we cannot expect support from national leaders and their organizations with the current leadership. Also, national coverage of other state Party problems has done nothing but hurt the Party in those states. In all cases, the chair ultimately stepped down but only after public airing of “internal” issues. Hawai’i Republicans are already in the minority, why give the other side more fodder?

While the executive committee recognizes and appreciates the chair’s desire and efforts to build a meaningful grassroots organization along with candidate recruitment, his actions are not sufficient to win elections. Again, others who want to support our candidates are suspect of the lack of a detailed, well-thought out strategic plan with a myriad of multi-faceted tactics that would be implemented today. They hear words, but don’t see actions.

Significant amounts of money must be raised and volunteers mobilized in the coming months to deliver the Party’s message, inform the Hawai’i public about our 2012 candidates, and assist those candidates in successful campaigns. Fundraising and generating large and small donor contributions are a key responsibility of the Chair of the Party, who publicly admits that he is not able to fulfill this responsibility. With debt of close to $100,000, no current staff nor the resources to hire for the foreseeable future, and little to no fundraising capability, the executive committee hopes the chair will step down rather than risk the Party’s finances becoming public knowledge. The consequences would be devastating.

We believe that with key upcoming elections, the future of our party will rest on this decision. Candidates and party members deserve the best leadership for their victory and unless this change is made, the Party will be put in dire straits. The bottom line is that we all love Hawai’i and want to win elections, but the reality is given the present state of affairs, we are simply not prepared to win or even compete.

Mahalo, for your support and we look to continue working for the betterment of Hawai’i and our L.L.I.F.E values. We can win back our state, and with your kokua, we will.

Kind regards, HRP Executive Committee:

Brennon Morioka, Miriam Hellreich, Beth Fukumoto, Gene Ward, Liz A. Dorn, David Chang, Lisa Coluccio, Marcia Klompus

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