WAIMEA, HAWAII ISLAND — Judging by the energy and attitudes of the 137 people who turned out to vote at the Thelma Parker Memorial Community Library in Waimea Tuesday evening for the Republican Caucus — the GOP has found new life.
“I think it is re-energized,” said 69-year-old Ron Scelza, of Waimea, noting how “a lot more people have focused their energies on not wanting President Obama re-elected.” He noted the close primaries amongst the Republican candidates and health care as key drivers in people’s interest in the GOP. “The way it was pushed through Congress, Republicans didn’t have a say. The Democrats had a veto-proofed Legislature,” Scelza said.
He said he was especially excited by the opportunity for former Gov. Linda Lingle or Charles Djou to be elected to Congress.
“That brings out more people (in Hawaii) because they feel relevant,” Scelza said.
“I hope so,” Pam Bahr said, when asked if she felt the Republican party has been fired up. “Things are bad. The economy, gas prices, health insurance, and food prices.”
Bahr and her husband John said they were voting for Newt Gingrich for Tuesday’s Caucus.
“He knows where the dead bodies are, so to speak,” Bahr said. Her husband added that it is “wishful thinking,” but he would like to see Gingrich and Rick Santorum on the same ticket.
“They are all really good candidates,” Pam Bahr said.
Former Hawaii County Councilman Leningrad Elarionoff, 73, of Waimea, said he voted for Mitt Romney, expressing he is “disappointed in the party” and dislikes that “they’re tearing each other apart.”
Aside from the Bahr couple and Elarionoff, those voting in Waimea Tuesday night seemed to mostly favor Ron Paul. Not surprisingly, at the end of the night, lead volunteer Tim Rice reported that Paul had won at that precinct.
“We’re all very happy,” he said.
Leif Palmer, 62, who stood on the roadside with his friend Dennis Spain, 63, urging people to vote at the library Tuesday, noted Waimea had a very organized group of Ron Paul supporters led by Elaine von Keudell.
“The country is ready for a revolution,” Palmer said. He said he is not really a Republican but signed up to vote as one in order to vote for Paul in 2008.
Von Keudell said she has never been politically active until she was introduced to Paul.
“His vision for America resonated for me because it’s about liberty and making free choices,” she said. “He allows us to do that. He doesn’t want government intervening with personal choices we make.”
Among the few young people who showed up in Waimea to vote Tuesday, 29-year-old Ambre Lindsey said she has only voted twice in her life and both times it was for Paul.
“He’s cool, and different,” said Lindsey, who wants to see government reform or “going back to the basics.” Lindsey noted that her father, a Frenchman, hasn’t voted in the 30 years he has been a U.S. citizen, but intended to vote for Paul tonight at a precinct in Waikoloa. Her father’s actions inspired her.
Sandy Gray, of North Kohala, 76, was also among the Paul supporters.
“There’s not much that doesn’t appeal to me about Ron Paul,” Gray said, noting his stance on the military “scares people” but that he would “protect our country and keep our military forces up to speed.”
“He just wouldn’t build billion-dollar embassies, like they do in Iraq,” Gray said.
“Smile,” Hawaii GOP volunteer Gail Rice told Carmine Dipronio as she handed him back his identification and gave him his voting sheet. “Only when Obama’s out,” Dipronio replied.
Dipronio, a 7-year resident of Waimea after moving to the islands from Massachusetts, said he voted for Ron Paul, knowing he is a “real underdog,” but hoping he will get the vice president slot and “round off the ticket.”
“This country’s going,” Dipronio said. “It’s gone, actually. The debt and continued wasteful spending on pork projects, we’ll end up like Europe, we’ll end up like Greece.”
Meanwhile, Leif’s wife, Linda Palmer, 60, who also had come out to vote for Ron Paul Tuesday, was irate to find Linda Lingle bumper stickers sitting atop a table inside the precinct. She also objected to the fact that everyone entering the room was handed a postcard addressed to the Linda Lingle Senate Committee, and told they needed to fill in their personal information prior to voting.
”I come in and there are Linda Lingle stickers all over,” Palmer said. “That’s campaigning in a polling place. The card I filled out is a Lingle support card! I came to vote for Ron Paul!”
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