Laie voters turned out in full force Tuesday night to make their choices for a Republican presidential nominee.
More than 1,000 residents cast their votes at Laie Elementary School on Oahu’s rural northeast shore. The predominantly Mormon community’s pick was clear — Mitt Romney — for long-time GOP backers and newcomers to the party alike.
Laie’s Mormon roots are obvious. The community is home to the church’s first temple built in Polynesia and a Brigham Young University campus. There are no Starbucks coffee shops in sight, and the local Foodland grocery store doesn’t carry alcohol. Most businesses are closed on Sundays.
“That’s definitely a plus because we know his morals,” Brigham Young University student Spencer Kekauoha said of Romney’s faith. “But it wasn’t a deciding factor. Romney could be Catholic or Buddhist and I’d still vote for him.”
A precinct staffer said volunteers over the last few days “knocked on every door to remind people to vote.”
Those who turned out were a mix of older couples, young families with babies and toddlers in tow, and young adults, many of them sporting BYU sweatshirts and T-shirts. Several neatly dressed voters wore name badges identifying themselves with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
‘I Just Had to Get Down Here’
Vicky Mo’o, a retiree and Laie resident for almost 50 years, said she’s been a Republican “for years and years.” She and her son, Maurice, both voted for Romney.
“He has the economic sense to do good for the nation,” she said. “I think that’s my priority right now.”
Mo’o said she was thrilled Hawaii hosted its first-ever GOP presidential caucuses.
“Isn’t it great that we get a say? I thought that was amazing and I just had to get down here,” she said.
“I overheard someone say they’ve never seen so many Republicans in one place,” Maurice Mo’o added.
Moa Mahe, who said he works in the local travel industry, cited Romney’s private sector experience as his main reason for supporting the former Massachusetts governor.
“If I was hiring someone to run my company, I’d want to find the most competent individual. In this case, the person will be running a country,” said Mahe, who’s been a GOP supporter for 20 years. “To me, Mitt Romney’s the most qualified.”
BYU student Jared Kahaialii said Romney’s performance in debates earned his vote.
“This is only the second time in my life that I’ve ever voted, but I liked how he composed himself in debates,” Kahaialii said. “There wasn’t any reason to vote for anyone else.”
Ron Paul Got Some Love, Too
At least two votes went in another direction at Laie. Husband and wife Mark and Dana Ackerman, also BYU students, supported Ron Paul.
“He supports a sound monetary policy,” Mark Ackerman, who’s majoring in business, said of Paul. “And his foreign policy — he’s the only one who’ll bring our troops home.”
Dana Ackerman said she joined the GOP party Tuesday night, which was the first time she’s voted in Hawaii. Her husband, meanwhile, said he’s always considered himself an independent, but that he’s “been leaning Republican for a long time.”
The Ackermans sported hand-made cardboard signs encouraging voters in line to “Ask me why I voted for Ron Paul.”
“It’s not about supporting the guy who’ll win,” Mark Ackerman said. “It’s about supporting the man who’s best for the job.”
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