Isle Republicans need to redefine themselves
A Leeward Oahu House member has become the second state lawmaker to quit the Republican Party this year.
The Hawaii Republican Party is shedding legislative members even as its titular head holds the top elected office in the state. The departure of Leeward Oahu Rep. Karen Awana from GOP ranks again suggests the faint influence Gov. Linda Lingle has had in increasing the number of elected officials at the state Capitol and the party's inability -- or indisposition -- to broaden its base.
Although Lingle was re-elected by a wide margin last year, Republicans dropped two seats in the Legislature. Current count has just seven Republicans in the 51-member House and four in the 25-member Senate.
Awana's quitting the party followed Sen. Mike Gabbard's desertion in August.
Neither had been fully embraced by Republicans despite Gabbard's conservative credentials as a leader in blocking marriage rights for homosexuals and Awana's beating an incumbent Democrat, notwithstanding the party's endorsement of her opponent in the primary election.
A Republican leader accused Awana of spying, taking part in a recent confidential House caucus meeting at which its legislative agenda was discussed even though she knew she was bolting. If so, it was bad form, but the GOP's plans in the Democratic-dominated Legislature are not consequential anyway.
As matters stand, Republicans clearly need to redefine their role in the legislative process. They are seldom heard from except to respond critically to Democratic proposals. They need to take a page from Lingle's publicity playbook, using e-mail and the Web to get out their message. Otherwise, they will remain irrelevant and merely reactionary.
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