Newcomers and old-timers alike turn out
Blue registration forms in hand identified most of the people in line to vote at Kalihi, Kahaluu and Hawaii Kai caucus sites as new Democratic Party applicants.
Some were also registering to vote for the first time. Many were newly aware of the party caucus system. Some identified themselves as former Republicans while others said this year's close race shook them out of recent years of apathy.
At Farrington High School, where districts 29 and 30 voted, Maggie Domingo, 79, a registered Republican for 20 years, joined the Democratic Party last night. "I was touched by the youth praising Obama," the travel agency owner said. "We need the younger generation to come out and be involved in the government."
Lawrence Chun returned to a party caucus for the first time in 20 years "because I can't stand Hillary." Chun, 79, who was deputy transportation director in the Gov. John A. Burns administration, carries a party membership card dating back 35 years. He said he drifted away "because of age and interests" but that this race incited him to get back. "If Obama doesn't get it, I probably won't vote," he said.
Calvin Konno was one of the party old-timers who were astonished at the numbers of newcomers at the Kalihi meeting. "The last District 29 caucus, no more than 50 people showed up. This time, it's because of what Bush has done. People want a change." Konno, a retired sheet metal worker, said he voted for Obama but "I'm still open to Clinton if she wins."
At Kahaluu Elementary School, Charles Toguchi, former legislator and schools superintendent, said there are usually 100 in attendance for a District 47 caucus. "I've never seen this much turnout in the past 40 years," he said. "It's not only good for the candidates, but good for the democratic process where we have this kind of excitement."
Longtime Republican Ida Woolsey, 71, of Kaaawa, said: "I'm here strictly because of Obama, because I like him. He will be good for us because he will make changes that will help us." She likes his health program and alternative-energy program, and "he wants to bring the troops home."
Judith Mioi, 70, of Hauula, said she was voting for Clinton for "our future, our children and our grandchildren."
Hundreds of people showed up to vote at Koko Head Elementary School, flowing down the sidewalks along the main parking lot of the Hawaii Kai public school. Traffic flowed steadily, with vehicles filling the school's lots and snaking down residential side streets. Inside, precinct officials ran out of party registration forms, but turned no one away, instead offering blank sheets of paper.
The huge turnout bodes well for future Democratic candidates in East Oahu, usually a Republican stronghold, said Greg Knudsen, chairman of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board and a registered Democrat.
"This is phenomenal. I've been at caucuses for years and never seen anything like this," Knudsen said. But others wondered if Republicans weren't showing up to make mischief for the Democrats, temporarily registering for the party so they could vote for the candidate they believed would make the weakest opponent for GOP presidential candidate John McCain.
"I heard some people talking like that. That's not right if it's happening," said Gary Morikawa, a 57-year-old Hawaii Kai resident whose support for Hillary Clinton drew him to his first Democratic caucus.
"I've always been an independent who leaned Democrat, but there's such a competition this year I thought it was important to be here," said Morikawa, who prefers Clinton for her leadership, experience and "general stance on the important issues."