The decision came after the resignation of the former party leader and another top official.

The Republican Party in Hawaii has a new leader after Lynn Finnegan resigned this week following an election year that saw a high number of GOP candidates compete despite odds against them in the predominantly Democratic state.

Rep. Diamond Garcia, the Hawaii GOP’s vice chair of candidate recruitment, was named interim leader and will serve until a vote to choose Finnegan’s long-term replacement is held.

Finnegan, who had presided over the party since November 2021, cited personal reasons in deciding to step down. “The biggest reason was my parents are aging, and I’ve got to do a better job caring for them,” she said Friday in an interview.

Rep. Diamond Garcia is the new interim chair of the Hawaii Republican Party. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022)

Lani Kaaa, the party’s vice chair for coordinated campaigns, also resigned on Tuesday. 

Garcia is one of eight Republicans in the Legislature after he was elected last year to represent a swath of West Oahu that comprises Ewa Villages, East Kapolei, Kanehili and Kaupea Hawaiian homelands.

“Just stepping in as interim chair until the next state committee meeting,” he said. 

Garcia said he expects to continue as chair through May, presiding over general housekeeping things like fundraising, finding new candidates and preparing for the state GOP convention as the party searches for a new, long-term chair. 

He said said he wants to focus on branding the state GOP as “the party of Prince Kuhio” and local families, a position that Garcia and his Republican colleagues have sought most notably through their introduction of bills against expanded sexual education in schools

Finnegan was the third party chair selected in 2021 following a short stint by Signe Godfrey, who replaced Shirlene Ostrov who quit in January in the wake of the riot at the U.S. Capitol and other party turmoil.

The Federal Elections Commission fined the state party $60,000 for an error in campaign finance reports after the 2020 election. It had failed to disclose over $3.3 million in total receipts and disbursements from its post-election and year-end reports, amending them in February 2021.

As chair, Finnegan focused hard on candidate recruitment, leading to a high rate of GOP participation in state elections last year and increasing its membership in the House and the Senate. She said the long hours were a significant part of her decision to step down.

Lynn Finnegan was chair of the Hawaii Republican Party from 2021 until she stepped down this week. The party increased its membership in the state House and Senate during last year’s election. (Ronen Zilberman/Civil Beat/2022)

Finnegan told the state committee in December that she was thinking about stepping away from the work in an official capacity, even though she still intends to help out when she can.

“It was talked about for a while,” said Garcia.

Kaaa said she left her role as vice chair of coordinated campaigns for a similar reason. 

The Hawaii Republican Party’s state committee roles are unpaid, and after helping Finnegan during the 2022 election cycle, Kaaa said she felt like her work was done for now. Also like Finnegan, she still plans to play a role when needed.

Finnegan is hopeful that her party – perennially challenged in Hawaii’s Democrat-driven political scene – can continue its focus on early and targeted candidate recruitment, which she feels is its best chance for picking up electoral seats. 

“We want to see huge gains each year,” she said.

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