by Andrew Walden
In spite of Gubernatorial and Congressional losses, Hawaii Republican leaders see their party’s 2010 campaigns laying a foundation for future success. In a report to the Hawaii Republican State Committee December 4, GOP Executive Director Dylan Nonaka acknowledges what he calls “a lot of disappointment with the outcome of the race for Governor and Congress” but points out “several trends that show this election was a foundational year for the party that we can build off of in future cycles.”
Republicans point to their net increase of two state House members after years of decline, but the “foundation” goes beyond that. Nonaka told Committee members:
Out of 64 state legislative races, Republicans contested 61 in 2010 compared to 34 in 2008, 52 in 2006, and 56 in 2004.
The larger playing field and quality candidates resulted in more competitive races than we have seen in the past. In 2010, eight candidates came within 10 points of their opponent, one open Republican House seat was retained, one open Republican Senate seat was lost and two Democrat seats were picked up.
In 2008, four GOP candidates came within 10 points, two incumbents lost and one open Republican held seat was lost. In 2006, four GOP candidates came within 10 points and the numbers in the legislature did not change. In 2004, five candidates came within 10 points and six seats were lost in the legislature.
Of the three new GOP House members elected in 2010, two were making their second run for office. It is the value of continuity which Republicans are banking on. Nonaka explains:
Not counting incumbents, the party has identified 15 candidates who ran this year and intend to run in 2012. There are 13 more who have not committed yet but are seriously considering running again in 2012. This continuity of candidates would be unprecedented….
Candidates and district organizations must continue to contribute to their communities year round to redefine voter’s perceptions… not just during the last 6 months of an election year.
Due to reapportionment, every state Senate seat will be up for election in 2012.
Ewa Beach gadfly Eric Ryan, in a December 8 news release, claims “the party is officially broke.” Former GOP Chair Willes Lee, in a November 5 email, claims that “fund raising is not a priority for (GOP Chair Jonah) Kaauwai….” But at the State Committee meeting Republican leaders presented an off-year $595,000 budget for 2011 with the fundraising to match. This is in line with previous off years and follows an election year in which the GOP raised and spent $1.3M—30% more than Willes Lee’s 2008 results. Facing a future without a Governor to pull in big donors, the GOP has already implemented new fundraising strategies. Nonaka explains:
The party refocused on the foundational fundraising programs of mail and telephones and expanded its efforts online… result(ing) in over 1000 new donors to the party.
The Hawaii GOP also benefitted from the support of controversial Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele. In contrast to previous RNC Chairs who focused entirely on maximizing turnout of the conservative base—and therefore provided very little support to the GOP in Hawaii and other liberal areas--Steele prioritizes efforts to expand the reach of the Republican Party into urban centers and other traditionally Democratic voting blocs. As a result, two black Republicans--Rep Tim Scott of SC and Rep Allen West of FL, five new Hispanic GOP Congressmen, and Senator Marco Rubio of FL were elected to Congress in 2010.
Steel’s strategy also paid off for Hawaii, as Nonaka reports:
With in-state fundraising supplemented by an unprecedented investment from the National Committees the Hawaii Republican Party was able to spend more on its victory program and candidates than ever before….We had eight staffed Victory offices across the state… to support the voter contact programs of campaigns from Governor to County Council.
A total of 406,700 volunteer voter contacts were made throughout the state--254% of our original goal…. We identified 25,673 new supporters of Republican candidates and 10,535 more voters who were identified as conservatives on key issues.
Church-based voter registration efforts added 15,000 votes to the totals of Republican State House candidates. In sharp contrast to previous Hawaii GOP leaders, Nonaka and Kaauwai emphasize the need to register even more voters from Republican-leaning constituencies. Nonaka explains:
One reality that was made clear during this election is that Republicans must expand the electorate and get more of Hawaii’s voters to participate in our elections and vote Republican. With one million eligible voters in the state of Hawaii, the turnout of 380,000 voters only represents 38% of the eligible population.
There are 300,000 people who are registered to vote who don’t turn out and 300,000 more people who are eligible to vote but do not register. If Republicans bring 10% (60,000 voters) of these voters into the electorate, the vast majority of the races in Hawaii would become competitive. These 60,000 voters breakout to about 1,200 per House District and 248 per precinct. If this goal is taken on over several years, it is completely within reach and will be necessary for the long term electoral success of the Hawaii Republican Party.
RELATED: Church-based voter drive brings 15,000 to polls, powers GOP House gains, Hawaii Republican Assembly: Home to Hawaii’s moderate Republicans?