Monday, May 31, 2004

Isle entertainer to
lead Democrats

The radio and TV personality
will shepherd the party faithful
in Hawaii

Brickwood Galuteria, an island entertainer and radio and television personality, was elected chairman of the state Democratic Party yesterday.

Galuteria won over longtime party worker and Oahu County Chairman Jimmy Toyama with 56 percent of the 776 delegates meeting in their biennial convention at the Sheraton Waikiki. A district-by-district vote on the convention floor deliberately weighted for travel reasons in favor of the neighbor island delegations saw Galuteria prevail 441-345. Without the weighting, Galuteria was up 365-284.

It wasn't surprising that Galuteria said his first order of business would be to improve communication between party members and the public.

Galuteria, who hosts the morning radio show on KINE-FM 105 and a cooking show on KHON-TV, has never been a Democratic Party officer, although he has been in the party since 1988.

Galuteria takes over the party that controls the Legislature, the county councils and the congressional delegation, but has been upstaged recently by Lingle, whose calls to reform education and control the crystal methamphetamine drug epidemic occupied much of the debate in this year's Legislature.

"We will take back the governor's office; communications will be the key -- there will be no more free rides for the Republicans," said Galuteria, a 48-year old father of five.

Calling the delegates "new day Democrats," Galuteria, who was supported by many established Democratic Party leaders and elected politicians, acknowledged that Democrats previously had made mistakes.

"We are regretful that we missed some opportunities in the past years. We admit the fact that we made some mistakes," Galuteria said.

"We maybe took our eye off the ball a little bit," Galuteria said, noting that Lingle's 2002 victory was with 2,000 fewer votes than she compiled when she lost the same race in 1998 to incumbent Ben Cayetano.

"We obviously understand that we lost our base and we are now going to try to galvanize our base," Galuteria said. "Maybe they just don't trust the party right now, but we want to reframe it and give them something to come back to."

Former party Chairwoman Lorraine Akiba, who led the Democrats when Lingle won, urged Galuteria to "not be afraid to let the Lingle administration and the people know what the Democrats stand for and to hold her accountable for many of her campaign promises."

Democrats also elected Richard Port, a longtime party worker and former party chairman, as national committeeman. National committeewoman was Dolly Strazar, who ran unopposed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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