POLITICAL CONVENTIONS THIS WEEKEND
GOP aims first to hold onto top state posts
After years of enduring jokes about holding conventions in phone booths, Hawaii's Republicans launch their conclave today in a large hotel ballroom with the single-minded purpose of re-electing their incumbent governor, Linda Lingle.
For party Chairman Sam Aiona, who is now a state employee like the two previous party chairmen, Lingle's re-election is job one.
"Our goal is to re-elect the governor and the lieutenant governor, re-elect our Republican elected officials -- and that includes two mayors on the neighbor islands," said Aiona, executive director of the Office of Community Services in the Department of Labor.
But Aiona recognizes that the convention opening today at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel and running through Sunday is mostly about Lingle.
"It is because of the leadership of Linda Lingle that we are able to overcome many of the obstacles that the Democrat Party wanted to throw our way," Aiona says.
A recent SurveyUSA poll had Lingle's approval rating at more than 60 percent, an increase from her position last year. The news comes while the Democrats have led a somewhat desperate search for a viable opponent, only to find former city Councilman and state Sen. Randy Iwase, and state Harbormaster William Aila.
Lingle hopes to use the convention to rally the troops and keep the GOP from thinking her re-election is a sure thing.
"One of the challenges of having a pretty good approval rating is people feel you don't need any help and you don't have a hard race," Lingle said.
"But when you are running, you are not just running against the name on the ballot, you are running against a group that wants to go back to the status quo. That includes the HGEA (Hawaii Government Employees Association) leadership.
"We are going to run as hard or harder than we ever did," Lingle promised.
Others feel that the GOP will have problems not from complacency, but from Washington.
With national GOP standard-bearer President Bush continuing to drop in approval rating, Hawaii Republicans fear a backlash.
"The Democrats are going to try to demonize us with George Bush," said Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings.
"I've disagreed with Bush on some things, and I agree with him on other things, but the Democrats can't run on their record, so they are going to run against Bush," Hemmings predicted.
Aiona added that the public does not have a chance to vote for or against Bush.
"I don't think Bill Clinton's actions hurt the Democrats, and I don't think George Bush has hurt the Republicans," he said.
Asked whether he would want Bush to come to Hawaii to campaign, Aiona paused in his office decorated with large photos of former President Ronald Reagan but none of Bush, saying finally, "They haven't asked. ... I don't think he has any trips scheduled."
The GOP goes into the weekend convention with only one major primary contest, the race between Sen. Bob Hogue and former Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa for the 2nd Congressional District seat left open as Rep. Ed Case runs for the Senate.
GOP CONVENTION SCHEDULE
What: Republican State Convention: "On the Road to a Better Hawaii-GOP-06"
Where: Sheraton-Waikiki, Lanai Ballroom
8:15 a.m.: Opening speech, Brennon Morioka, former GOP chairman
11:45 a.m.: Luncheon meeting with GOP candidates for Congress, Sen. Bob Hogue and Quentin Kawananakoa
4 p.m.: Platform forum
8:30 a.m.: General session starts
10:10 a.m.: Hogue and Kawananakoa give 10-minute speeches
11 a.m.: Gov. Linda Lingle speaks
Noon: Lunch with Randy Roth, who speaks on his book co-authored by U.S. District Judge Sam King, "Broken Trust"
6:30 p.m.: Convention banquet with Mike DuHaime, Republican National Committee political director, speaking
8:45 a.m.: General session
9:45 a.m.: Adoption of GOP platform