Sunday, June 6, 2004

Isle Republicans
recall influence

Gov. Lingle praises Reagan's
leadership out of the Cold War

As the death of former President Ronald Reagan was announced yesterday at the Hawaii state Republican convention, delegates stopped to think on how Reagan had influenced both world events and their views on politics.

Nadine Nishioka, a candidate for the 25th Tantalus-Makiki House district, recalled that she heard Reagan speak here, and it convinced her to join the Young Republicans and become interested in politics.

Another House candidate, Kymberly Pine, who is running for the 43rd Ewa Beach district, said Reagan made her proud to be a Republican.

"He made me realize that it was not bad to be a Republican," said Pine, who grew up in a local Democratic family.

"We had a lot of respect in my family for him, because they believed he was an honest man," she said.

Others, such as Bob Chung, who has worked for the local GOP for 45 years, termed Reagan's death "a great shame," adding that he was a "true leader for us."

Gov. Linda Lingle called Reagan a symbol "for everything that is great about America."

"He led the nation and the world out of the Cold War," Lingle said.

She recalled meeting him in the early 1980s, when she was still a Maui County councilwoman.

"It was a meeting at the old Kahala Hilton, and he had on a brown suit, and I remember thinking, 'Very few people can wear a brown suit,'" Lingle said. "He was so handsome and quite tall."

Gerald Coffee, a GOP candidate from the 33rd Aiea-Halawa House district, also recalls his first meeting with Reagan. He had just been released after spending seven years in a Hanoi POW camp during the Vietnam War.

"President Reagan was governor of California at the time, and he took the time to meet the plane when we landed in California," Coffee said. "He was very gracious. What I liked about Reagan was his optimism."

Delegates at the convention held a moment of silence in remembrance of Reagan, whose death cast a somber tone on the event.

But that tone didn't last long as party leaders seized the moment -- and one of the former actor's most memorable movie lines -- to urge the party faithful to work extra hard to accomplish their goals in this election year.

"Let's win one for the Gipper," convention co-chairman Sam Aiona told the crowd.

"I think he would've liked that," Republican state Sen. Sam Slom said of the "Gipper" rally cry, a reference to Reagan's role as doomed football star George Gipp in the 1940 film "Knute Rockne: All-American."

"Yes, it's a somber time, but it's not totally unexpected, and I think it will galvanize -- particularly the younger, newer candidates -- to work a little bit harder," Slom said.

"We all loved President Reagan," said veteran Republican state Rep. Barbara Marumoto. "I think all Hawaii will mourn a great president, a great communicator."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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