by Andrew Walden
Contrary to most of what is being reported in the media, efforts to register voters at Hawaii churches powered a substantial increase in voter turnout by church-goers. The drive produced swings in favor of Republican House candidates of 5% or more in 16 out of 51 house districts. The GOP gained a total of 15,322 new Republican votes in these 16 districts--based on the percentage growth of the GOP vote multiplied by the total voter turnout.
In eleven of the 16 districts GOP gains ran from 10.2% to 19.9%. Seven Democrat incumbents found their opponent garnering between 41.1% and 48.9%—only six of the seven remain. Two Republicans—George Fontaine in HD11 (Kihei) and Gil Riviere in HD46 (Schofield, N Shore)--were propelled into previously Democratic seats and every GOP seat was retained.
The districts showing the greatest gains (shown below with **) are in Central (HD31, 33, 36, 37, 38), Leeward (HD45) , N Shore/Windward (HD46, HD49) and East Oahu (HD18)—as well as HD11, Kihei. GOP incumbent Rep. Corrine Ching pushed her totals up to 65.4% from her 2008 total of 51.6% in Liliha (HD27). These correspond exactly with the areas where participation in church-based voter registration was strongest.
With gay civil unions ahead by only four House votes according to the so-called “Equality Hawaii” group, these figures should give pause to any Democrat considering their position on such legislation in the upcoming session.
(Chart compates percentage vote for GOP House candidates in selected districts over the last three election cycles.)
In addition to the percentage gains for Republican candidates, the upsurge in church-based political involvement helped GOP leaders recruit a strong Republican legislative slate contesting 49 of the 51 House seats.
GOP legislative candidates in the 44 districts where a comparison is possible averaged only 1.5% more than 2008 (or 2006 where no 2008 figure is available). This puny overall growth underlines the strong contrast between GOP gains in areas which saw church-based voter participation efforts and the lack of gains—or even losses--in areas where such campaigns did not take hold. The unevenness shows the potential for additional growth in Christian voters if campaigns such as iVote continue.
The GOP is based on a foundation of social conservatism, fiscal conservatism, and strong national defense. This corresponds to the three basic constituencies of the Republican Party: church goers, small business, and military/veterans. Legislative losses by the Hawaii GOP over the past decade stem largely from a failure to mobilize faith-based voters. Hawaii Republicans’ future success rests on continuing to improve voter participation by all of these constituencies.
The contrast between the poor showing for the Aiona/Finnegan Gubernatorial ticket and the improvements by GOP House candidates is explained by the fact that the GOP base is a minority among the electorate in Hawaii. Thus it is possible to grow the base while losing a race. The success of any GOP gubernatorial or congressional effort requires a candidate with the political skills necessary to draw in nearly all independent voters in order to overcome the numerically larger Democrat base which is estimated in the 40% to 49% range. This is also true of GOP legislative candidates.
Star-Advertiser editorial writers today provide wise advice to Republican leaders:
In the wake of what they must see as a disappointing outcome on the home front, Hawaii Republicans need to confer on ways to groom new candidates who show potential to run competitive races and get elected….
it doesn't help that Democratic leaders at the Capitol keep such a tight grip on power; it's hard to entice someone to run as a Republican with such meager hope for effecting change. But that remains the proper mission of the GOP organizers. They must draw on supporters with experience in the business sector or community groups, or bright young contenders who show potential as an officeholder at the entry level.
The current leaders of the Hawaii GOP -- principally party Chairman Jonah Kaauwai and Executive Director Dylan Nonaka -- aggressively recruited candidates and succeeded in contesting more offices statewide than their predecessors. Unfortunately, many were weak contenders, either because of a thin resume or a nearly single-minded focus on what was seemingly the central social issue among Hawaii conservatives: defeating any renewed effort to pass a bill legalizing civil unions for homosexual couples.
While the issue is a legitimate rallying point that energized a base of supporters, especially from churches, the successful candidates were the ones who appealed to a broader constituency.
Note that the SA editors are not suggesting the GOP abandon opposition to gay civil unions as so many progressive snakes now eagerly counsel. The point here is that faith-based candidates--and candidacies based largely on fiscal conservatism--will have a broader appeal if they also address broader issues as opposed to limiting themselves to the issues which energize the GOP base. The goal must be to win the independent voters who decide elections. It is neither necessary nor desirable to jettison core GOP issues to make this appeal successful. The Star-Advertiser editors continue:
A review of the vote breakdown from the Nov. 2 election shows a growing number of pockets where the GOP is ascendant, especially in Leeward and Central Oahu. With the right candidate who can attract moderates as well as conservatives, Republicans could begin to build their numbers.
Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, who won the 1st Congressional District's special election in May, lost the seat last week to Democrat Colleen Hanabusa -- but grew solid support in his bid. Party affiliations aside, Hawaii's electorate must realize the need for intellectually agile, issue-oriented and articulate candidates like Djou and Lynn Finnegan.
The 2010 election should be instructive to the GOP that there is a viable political constituency here. Hawaii has elected Republicans who have contributed capably to the debate over public policy, and there seems to be a growing number of voters who could put more of them in office in the future.
Not a single word about throwing the Christians to the lions. This writer had to read it over three times to believe it, but in fact every word of this is golden advice for the GOP.
In spite of the Gubernatorial loss and Charles Djou’s Congressional heartbreaker, Hawaii Republicans have installed a foundation upon which to build. The recruitment and training of 2012 Republican candidates at all levels for should begin today and the efforts to expand voter registration and turnout by all three core GOP constituencies must continue and expand.
SA: Isle GOP needs to rebuild
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