State Dems will caucus Feb. 19
It's not as much fun as a root canal or as gripping as reading your insurance policy, but Democrats across the state will today be poring over the latest version of the Hawaii Delegate Selection Plan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
"It's a document only a lawyer could love," said Andy Winer, an attorney and state director of the Hawaii Obama for President committee.
For Hawaii supporters of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), the road to the White House starts with the Democratic caucuses to be held on Feb. 19 across the state.
Both Obama and Clinton supporters have started phone banks to remind their supporters to come to the precinct caucus meetings.
The Clinton supporters have some of the big names in Hawaii's Democratic establishment, starting with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye. Also working in the local Clinton steering committee are Senate President Colleen Hanabusa; Jimmy Nakatani, former member of the Cayetano administration; Randy Iwase, former councilman, senator and candidate for governor; Donn Ariyoshi, son of former Gov. George Ariyoshi; and Randy Perreira, executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.
Winer has also steered the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka and former Honolulu City Councilman Duke Bainum. Also working on the campaign is former state Rep. Brian Schatz and Charles Freedman, former communications director for Gov. John Waihee.
The mission for both campaigns is to get people to the caucus. At the meetings, those wanting to vote for either Clinton or Obama will have to be registered voters and also members of the Hawaii Democratic Party.
The Democrats will then vote for their candidate for president.
Although U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards are on the ballot, they have pulled out and Democrats can vote only for Obama or Clinton.
According to Florence Kong Kee, Hawaii Democratic Party executive director, Hawaii's 29 delegates will include 20 who are apportioned according to the caucus night voting results.
Four years ago the party was swamped with 4,000 voters, compared with the just 1,200 who voted in 2000, according to former Chairman Alex Santiago.
"We had an incredible surge because people were so upset with President Bush and the Iraq war," Santiago said.
"We were concerned about the overflow, but we were able to handle it," Santiago said. "Now this year it is going to be unprecedented, and I think it is because Barack Obama is from Hawaii."
Schatz said they expect to drive 8,000 to 12,000 Democrats to the caucuses.
"We have no way of predicting, but we think some areas may be very crowded and people may get confused, so part of our organizing is to get as many people as possible to know the process," Schatz said.
The process became complex to spread the power, said Neal Milnor, University of Hawaii ombudsman and political scientist.
"Democrats wanted to take the power away from the so-called party bosses, and they wanted to build the opportunity for differences at the grass-roots level," Milnor said.
To do that, the state delegations to the national convention are divided between delegates representing Obama and Clinton. That number is based in part on state caucus voting.
Also included are the so-called "superdelegates," which are the "party stalwarts," according to Milnor. The superdelegates can vote for whomever they want.
The actual rules are dense. The rules feature terms like PLEO, which stands for party leaders and elected officials.
Among the pledged delegates are three PLEOs, which are made up of "big-city mayors, statewide elected officials, state legislative leaders, state legislators and other state, county and local elected officials and party leaders."