Chad Blair: Can The Hawaii GOP Capitalize On Democrats’ Mistakes? - Honolulu Civil Beat


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Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.

I received an email from Keith Amemiya on Tuesday.

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“I’m running for Lt. Governor to end corruption in our government,” he wrote, asking for money. “I have never worked in the Capitol, and I don’t take bribes from lobbyists. I am an independent outsider with a record of integrity.”

It was very similar to the email from Amemiya that I received on Feb. 26. “I am disturbed to see the news of corruption — or even the perception of corruption — in our Capitol,” he wrote.

And 10 days before that Amemiya sent me an email, too. Not a politician, he said. Didn’t work in Capitol. Never took bribes.

Amemiya is doing his best to get out ahead on what is turning out to be a major theme in this year’s elections: government corruption. For that we can thank investigators who have recently collared, on a range of charges, two former state legislators, three former Honolulu officials and five employees from one city agency.

Amemiya is not alone in his quest. One of his lieutenant governor opponents, Jill Tokuda, has also lifted her finger to the political headwinds, saying in a Feb. 18 email, “The undue influence that money has in our political system can lead to corruption and when it does, we all lose.”

And when he made his run for governor official earlier this month, Lt. Gov. Josh Green stated, “I’m running because we need leaders we can trust and who care about people.”

The problem that Green, Tokuda and Amemiya have, however, is that they are members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, which controls the Capitol and most of the governance in the state and four counties.

And malfeasance is a concern at the federal level, too, where three of Hawaii’s four members in the U.S. Congress up for reelection this year are — finally! — speaking out loud and repeatedly about the Red Hill fuel leaks. At least one GOP challenger to Sen. Brian Schatz — Ewa Beach lawmaker Bob McDermott — has made Red Hill his primary campaign issue.

Hawaii GOP presser at Capitol March 1, 2021
Hawaii Republican Party Chairwoman Lynn Finnegan at the Capitol Tuesday with candidates for office behind her. Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2022

But Republicans believe there are other matters at play that could help their party. Sensing blood in the waters, top GOP leaders and candidates gathered Tuesday at the Capitol Rotunda.

State party chair Lynn Finnegan, herself a former House minority leader and former GOP candidate for LG, said, “There are three reasons why we need to vote Democrats out of office, and that’s corruption, hypocrisy and deafness.”

Finnegan called out by name the disgraced former lawmakers J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen. But she also accused “certain elected officials” who go without masks in indoor gatherings while mandating masks to be worn by the rest of the people of Hawaii.

Finally, she said the governor and county mayors, as seen through their government edicts regarding Covid-19 restrictions, have not been listening to the “voices of people.”

The solution to the three-pronged problem, said Finnegan, is checks and balances.

“Hawaii, we deserve better,” she concluded. “There is no better time than now to turn things around.”

Behind Finnegan stood more than a dozen candidates for various offices including Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi and three other candidates for governor: fighter BJ Penn, business consultant Paul Morgan and retired veteran Lynn Mariano. Gary Cordery of the Aloha Freedom Coalition is expected to formally announce his campaign for the job on Saturday.

Campaign signs for Lynn Barry Mariano. at the GOP rally.
Campaign signs for Lynn Barry Mariano at the GOP rally. Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2022

Perhaps coincidentally — perhaps not? —  the GOP press conference was held the same day as President Joe Biden was to deliver his State of the Union address. Later in the afternoon, Gov. David Ige announced the end to the Safe Travels program this month and that state and county employees will no longer be subject to the vaccine-or-test requirements. But the indoor mask mandate remains for now.

And the news broke this week that Hawaii Democrats may kick Tulsi Gabbard out of the party for daring to speak to Republicans in Florida over the weekend.

The 2022 election also represents the first in 10 years in which some district boundaries have been changed, a process that is held up in the courts at present.

“Fifty-one state House seats, 25 state Senate seats are all up for grabs,” Finnegan observed. “Today we are sounding a clear and clarion call as we launch our Stand for Hawaii Victory 2022 campaign.”

Will it work?

Keep in mind that GOP candidates typically get around 30% of the vote in local races. We may be an ocean blue state, but there are strong rivers of red flowing all around.

I asked Finnegan where her party stood on Donald Trump’s stubborn and bogus stance that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate.

“I think right now what we’re focused on is winning this election here locally in Hawaii,” she replied. “What matters now is that the people of Hawaii have been handcuffed from their everyday business and it’s hurting people. So what I’d like to focus on today is local issues and what we are here for, which is to elect Republicans here in Hawaii for the betterment of our next generation.”

Campaign signs for BJ Penn at the GOP rally.
Campaign signs for BJ Penn at the GOP rally. Chad Blair/Civil Beat/2022

Finnegan added that the party had not specifically discussed Trump and that the former president has many supporters here.

“And I think that’s OK because across the nation, 63% of people polled have shown that if Trump were in office today, this would not be happening in Russia,” she said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine.

Finnegan also acknowledged that “election integrity” is a concern, however, and said that the GOP was working with the State Elections Office to ensure that the balloting process would work well.


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About the Author

Chad Blair

Chad Blair is the politics and opinion editor for Civil Beat. You can reach him by email at cblair@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @chadblairCB.


Latest Comments (0)

The short answer is "yes." GOP's best opportunity is now for seeding. In Clinton's campaign phrase, it is the "economy." With DLIR's very terrible response to pandemic's unemployment of middle class folks, developments making the homeownership market impossible for middle class residents, and crushing middle class folks with inflation on very basic needs. There is unrest. The news of crimes fuel this further. Among DEM's usual supporters, desperation will gamble on "hail mary" votes. Unfortunately, GOP platforms do not really offer answers either.

Ca · 6 months ago

Like most Republicans, Finnegan did not answer Chad’s question. And this is why they will never win. Because even though a lot of people are fed up with the status quo here in Hawaii, they won’t vote for Republicans who refuse to repudiate the toxic lunacy of the power hungry national Republican Party.

paulo · 7 months ago

Let's talk about the Democrat's platform on restricting tourism, raising the overall tax rate to support the "Green agenda", which does intend to increase the overall cost of energy in the form of electricity and gas. We all know this also contributes to the increases the price of all consumer goods. The losing agenda to restrict the main industry to Hawai'i. Higher cost of living, on top of already being the highest cost of living in the nation. There is also the socialist and racist agenda being pushed in the school system. The closed-door approach to keep the public out of the loop until the bills have to be paid. Or we find out that one of the Democrats has got caught with the hand in the kitty. Then the (expletive) RAIL/HART public works fiasco expected to go on for at least another decade. Speaking no end in sight problems that have become no solutions from the current Party in charge, the homeless wander the street, people who can't afford the cost of rent not the leave out the median price of homes of $800,000. With all this do we really want to keep Democrats in office? Not unless your brain dead.

TiTime · 7 months ago

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