The highest-ranking elected Republican in Hawaii also wants to lead the state party.

State Rep. Andria Tupola said Wednesday that she was officially running to be chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party.

Tupola, the House minority leader who represents a district that includes the Waianae Coast on Oahu, made her announcement at Ala Moana Center. She was joined by a team of seven people, a slate that will be voted on at the party’s state convention in Lihue on May 12 and 13.

“Our team is qualified, diverse and ready to serve,” said Tupola. “We cannot wait to get our Republican Party back on track financially and begin training new candidates to win in the 2018 election.”

Rep Andria Tupuola Republican party office4. 3 may 2017
State Rep. Andria Tupola announced her intention Wednesday to seek the chair position of the Hawaii Republican Party. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

The candidates on Tupola’s slate are Fern Mossman for secretary, Mark Storfer for treasurer, Henry Vincent III for vice chair of coordinated campaigns, Kaʻeo Kealoha-Lindsey for vice chair for candidate recruitment and training, Stephanie Bolan for vice chair of communications, Kaʻiwiola Coakley for vice chair of community service and Kelly Kitashima for vice chair of coalitions.

Tupola said Thursday is the deadline for candidates to run for party chair and added she was not sure whether Fritz Rohlfing, the current chairman, will seek another term.

Inquiries to the party were not returned.

GOP On The Ropes

Tupola’s candidacy comes as the state GOP is in disarray.

Last year, the only Republican in the state Senate lost his seat while the number of GOP representatives in the state House dropped to six.

Earlier this year, that figure dropped to five when Rep. Beth Fukumoto said she was switching to the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

By that time, Fukumoto had already lost her position as minority leader to Tupola in a caucus vote.

The local GOP’s weakness is in stark contrast to the national scene, where Republicans control all three branches of the federal government as well as a majority of state legislatures and governorships.

House Minority Leader Andria Tupola speaks to Rep Saiki, Rep Luke and Rep Ward before floor session gaveled in. 11 april 2017
Tupola speaking with Reps. Gene Ward, Scott Saiki and Sylvia Luke during a House floor debate. 

Tupola said she is well aware of the problems the GOP faces. She criticized current and past party officials for lacking a recovery plan.

Tupola’s plan is based on what the calls the four R’s — relevancy, relationships, reach and results. She wants to make better use of social media to reach people in their 20s and 30s.

“We want a candidate-centered party, more locally centered and focused,” she said. “Our bench is rather short.”

Wearing Two Hats

It will be a tall order to change Hawaii’s politics.

With few exceptions, the Democrats have dominated for as long as Hawaii has been a state.

Tupola was asked how she would be able to wear two hats — party chair and minority leader.

“First off, I’m a mom, and moms are amazing,” she replied.

She said her only work commitment was her legislative duties, which take place primarily from January to early May.

She also said she would not hesitate to criticize President Donald Trump should he say things she finds objectionable. But she also the GOP being in charge nationally could help Hawaii, especially because of the U.S. military presence in the islands.

According to her legislative biography, Tupola is an honors graduate of the Kamehameha Schools Kapalama campus on Oahu.

She attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where she was elected student body vice president during her junior year.

During college, Tupola took a year and a half off and completed a Christian service mission for the Mormon church in Venezuela. She graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

She is working on a Ph.D .at the University of Hawaii, and recently left her position at Leeward Community College as a music instructor.

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