Democratic Party head will leave post
Mike McCartney, a well-connected former state senator and businessman, said he will step down as chairman of the state Democratic Party by Oct. 15 to became executive director of the 13,000-member Hawaii State Teachers Association.
His resignation is expected to trigger an election for the party chairmanship next year. In the interim, Vice Chairwoman Jean Withington, a Hilo attorney, will serve as acting chairwoman.
Former state Rep. Brian Schatz said he is interested in running for chairman at the Democratic convention in May.
Others possibly interested include Tony Gill, a labor attorney, Donn Ariyoshi, son of former Gov. George Ariyoshi, and Al Harrington, an entertainer.
McCartney will replace longtime HSTA Executive Director Joan Husted, 70, who retires Dec. 31 to take care of a younger brother who has Alzheimer's disease.
Annelle Amaral, Oahu County chairwoman, said she was not interested in the state chairmanship, but said the Democrats' biggest challenge will be the possible Constitutional Convention in 2010.
"I think watching the issues for the ConCon and where the guys will fall on the issues will be the major thing to watch closely," Amaral said.
Voters will decide next year whether to hold a state ConCon in 2010.
McCartney said the state Democratic Party, which holds almost all of the seats in the Legislature, added Sen. Mike Gabbard to its ranks in a move that was controversial.
Gabbard had led the fight against same-sex marriage in 1998 and had been criticized by Democrats before he joined the party.
"There is always tension in the party. We went through a tense internal process with Mike Gabbard that challenged who we were," McCartney said.
Schatz, chief executive officer of Helping Hands Hawaii, said yesterday that he would start surveying Democrats for support.
"I want to make sure that people can buy into my vision," he said.
McCartney was praised by Schatz, who said that the former head of PBS-Hawaii and former chairman of the Hawaii Tourism Authority was successful in raising money for the Democrats.
"Mike deserves a lot of credit for putting the party on solid financial footing," Schatz said.
McCartney said Hawaii's all-Democratic congressional delegation was instrumental in raising funds.