moves to create
The political party says it hasBy Pat Omandam
enough petition signatures
Organizers of the Aloha Aina Political Party believe they have enough support from registered voters to qualify as a political party for this year's primary and general elections.
"The response has been very positive to organize the party," said Wayne K. Panoke, temporary co-chairman of Aloha Aina's central committee.
"I believe the community at large believes that there is a need for a party like Aloha Aina."
The formation of the Hawaiian political party, which can be compared to the short-lived Home Rule Party founded by Hawaiians in 1900, began after native groups and leaders found themselves leading rallies at the state Legislature in recent years to oppose bills that adversely affect Hawaiian rights, culture and benefits. Such demonstrations prompted some to call for better choices at the state Legislature.
The argument gained momentum when Gov. Ben Cayetano last February indicated he wanted to replace eight of the nine Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees because of the Rice vs. Cayetano decision. The U.S. Supreme Court opinion struck down the state's Hawaiians-only voting restriction for OHA elections and raised fears that race-based federal and state programs may be in jeopardy.
Aloha Aina organizers have until Thursday afternoon to submit a petition containing at least 602 signatures of registered voters to the state Office of Elections. Aloha Aina co-chairwoman Vicky Holt-Takamine is confident the group has the numbers but won't know until all the petitions are returned to her within the next two days.
"I'm sure we're going to have enough," she said. "I'm not worried about it."
Takamine said Neighbor Island support has been especially strong since the petition drive began less than a month ago.
Other temporary officers of Aloha Aina are Kala Holden, treasurer; Kaleinani Kaloi, secretary; and officer Annelle Amaral. Once the party qualifies, a steering committee of 35 people will begin a membership drive and convene a convention so the party can elected its permanent officers. Those interested in the party should call Takamine at 754-2301 or Panoke at 239-9773.
Officials at the state Elections Office said once petitions for political parties are filed, there is a 10-day period when established political parties may file objections. Any objections would be heard by the chief elections officer.
Takamine said other parties could object to names on the petition but she doesn't know what other issues could be raised.
"I don't know if anybody that's in our organization has ever started a political party, to say the least. So I don't know what has been challenged in the past," she said.
The Elections Office last month qualified and added the Constitution Party to this fall's elections, while the Reform Party recently filed its petition with the office.
The Aloha Aina, Natural Law and Libertarian political parties all have active applications they must submit by 4:30 p.m. Thursday to get on the primary and general election ballots.