by Andrew Walden
The May, 2011 Hawaii GOP Convention decisions set Republicans on what could have been a path towards victory in 2012, but instead of unifying around the convention decisions, Republican leaders have dug in deeper in their factional trenches.
The infighting has reached a new low with a September 18th letter sent out to State Committee members calling for the ouster of GOP Chair Jonah Kaauwai. The Republican State Executive Committee will vote September 29 on whether or not to call an October 15 State Committee meeting for the purpose of voting on Kaauwai's removal. The approximately 70 members of the Republican State Committee include all GOP House District Chairs.
In laying out their case against Kaauwai, his opponents seem to talk down the importance of grassroots work:
While the executive committee recognizes and appreciates the chair’s desire and efforts to build a meaningful grassroots organization along with candidate recruitment, his actions are not sufficient to win elections.
In his response, Kaauwai seems to de-emphasize the top of the ticket:
The question is then, how do you build the Hawaiian Republican Party? Under my guidance, The Hawaii Republican party has had qualified candidates running in almost every elected office in the state. There is no doubt in my mind that is how you build a party.... By growing party organization from the ground up, by building up and supporting candidates at every level, we will build a long term, vibrant Republican presence in Hawaii. It is not however, in centering on one or two candidates alone as has been the norm.
This is a false dichotomy. There is no contradiction between having a strong top-of-the ticket campaigns and a full legislative slate. In fact the two goals are complementary.
But neither faction has been able to put all the pieces together. The nasty fight most recently spilled into the media starting with a September 18th column by Borreca. But it has been going on for months. KITV reports:
A Republican source said Lingle supporters stopped contributing to the Hawaii GOP earlier this year, trying to “starve Jonah out.” But at the time, a source said, Kaauwai’s detractors did not have a candidate standing by to replace him as chair.
Kaauwai's opponents were in evidence at the May GOP State convention, yet they failed to put forward a competing candidate for Chair. Kaauwai was reelected unopposed.
Star-Advertiser columnist Richard Borreca today writes:
One of the reasons for the Hawaii Democratic Party's continued success is its ability to vigorously debate, scheme and fight amongst its own members.
This differs from the local Republican Party, which merely devours its young.
Democrats possess the ability to wade into a primary battle, gouge and eyeball their fellow Democrats and then launch into a serious talk about party unity for the general election. This is an ability that must be taught at a young age….
In contrast, the GOP appears perilously close to an internal collapse as the battle over leadership has intensified into a demand that the party chairman step down.
This kind of nonsense is why Hawaii Republicans are the loosing-est Republicans in the nation. Hawaii is only the 12th most liberal state, but we have the most lopsided Democrat legislature in the nation.
The leadership vacuum is disappointing because the tasks before the GOP couldn't be clearer:
1. Support a winning top-of-the-ticket campaign with Governor Linda Lingle, Rep Charles Djou, and a strong CD2 candidate.
2. Continue recruiting and training legislative candidates for 2012 in order to contest every seat in the Legislature and build the GOP House and Senate caucuses.
3. Build successful March 13, 2012 Republican Presidential caucuses to help choose the GOP Presidential nominee, sign up thousands of new Party members, and boost Hawaii Republican campaigns' grassroots work.
4. Prepare for the 2012 Hawaii GOP Convention.
5. Continue to build GOP organizations and boost 2012 campaigns by holding GOP events at the District and Precinct level.
6. Continue to support voter registration and GOP membership drives among traditional Republican constituencies.
7. Suspend fundraising for the "Burn the Mortgage" campaign until after Election Day to focus on fundraising for current party and campaign expenses.
8. Shift the focus of Party fundraising back to traditional donors who have not been active since November, 2010. Outline a unifying plan for victory in 2012 to major donors and end any boycott, real or imagined.
9. Based on early fundraising success and a newly unified leadership, solicit a loan from supporters to pay off the Party's leftover 2010 debt with no loan payments due until after the November Elections.
In just a few months in office, Gov. Abercrombie has bizarrely lurched from trying to balance the budget on the backs of senior citizens to attacking the Pro Bowl. Abercrombie has alienated his own base from labor leaders to progressive commentators. Every day brings a new revelation about Abercrombie's arrogant and secretive gubernatorial doings.
Hawaii deserves better leadership. The majority of Hawaii voters and opinion leaders--including many who now regret voting for Abercrombie--are open to new ideas and new leadership from the Republican side of the aisle.
But instead of providing it, Republicans are locked in a faction fight.
The opponents of Kaauwai have not identified a replacement candidate for Party Chair. Their call for his removal cannot be considered credible unless they step up, name their replacement candidate and explain their vision of how Republicans move forward.
Likewise, the incumbent Kaauwai must outline his vision of how Republicans can unify behind Lingle and Djou for campaign 2012.
Both sides need to focus on the elections, not on their own factional interests.
Related: Hawaii GOP Leaders Call for Ouster of Party Chair