Friday, March 19, 2004

Inouye reminds Democrats
of ‘wake-up call’

State party members get together
to discuss plans for the elections

Calling the 2002 election a "wake-up call," isle U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye met privately yesterday with state House and Senate Democrats to prepare for the November elections.

Next month, Inouye and U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka will be guests of honor at a Democratic fund-raiser to pick up money for both the party and the state House.

Democrats control the state Legislature, but the party was stunned to see their hold on the governor's office slip in 2002 as Republican Linda Lingle beat former Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono.

"I told them the last election might not have been that bad. The last election was a wake-up call, and I think the next election will be a good one," Inouye said.

Most of the Democrats assembled at Tree Tops Restaurant for lunch yesterday declined to say anything about the two-hour meeting, although Rep. Calvin Say, House speaker, said the gathering was an acknowledgment that the GOP was going after House Democrats.

"I would say we are in a state of rebuilding," Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise) said, noting the upcoming election might be a tough fight.

House Democrats guess that the GOP has organized about 18 political action committees across the state in key districts for the fall races.

But Brennon Morioka, state GOP chairman and executive director, said the Republicans have actually organized 31 districts and are aiming to have a formally organized political action committee for each of the 51 districts.

"We are trying to build our party from the ground up. ... Our basic philosophy is empowering individuals at the lowest level," Morioka said.

Although the GOP won the governorship two years ago, it lost four House seats, and those defeats have Morioka saying his side is now also hearing a "wake-up call."

"They (Republicans) just can't take their district for granted," Morioka said. "People still want to hold them accountable."

Morioka cautioned that the Democrats' fund-raiser next month falls under the federal election laws if either Inouye or Akaka, who hold federal office, participate in raising money for the state party.

"If they are actively fund raising for the state party and they are fund raising for the state account, that is against the law," Morioka said.

Inouye had said he and Akaka "will be hosting the fund-raiser," but his aide, Jennifer Sabas, explained later that Inouye and Akaka will be honored by the Democratic Party and not actually collecting donations.


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