Schatz enters campaign to lead state Democrats
Head of Obama’s Hawaii campaign hopes energy from primary builds
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The head of Sen. Barack Obama's Hawaii campaign organization announced yesterday his candidacy for chairman of the state Democratic Party.
Former state Rep. Brian Schatz said he wants to build on the momentum from the Democratic caucus in February, when a turnout topping 37,000 far surpassed the expectations of party leaders.
The chairman of the state party also serves as a superdelegate at the national convention.
A potential rival for the party post, Oahu Chairwoman Annelle Amaral, a supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton, said she also would vote for Obama because of his overwhelming victory in the caucus.
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Former state Rep. Brian Schatz, a strong supporter of Hawaii-born presidential contender Barack Obama, officially announced yesterday that he is running for chairman of the state's Democratic Party -- an influential position this year with the upcoming presidential election.
The chairman of the party will also become one of the state's nine superdelegates, a group of unpledged delegates that could end up selecting the Democratic nominee for president.
Annelle Amaral, Oahu Democratic chairwoman and former state representative, also said she is interested in running for the party leadership post, but has not decided yet.
At a news conference near the state Capitol, Schatz said he wants to build on the momentum from the Democratic caucus in February, where more than 37,000 people voted and surpassed expectations from party leaders.
"Our job as a party is to make sure that this was not a one-time phenomenon, but rather the beginning of a resurgence in grass-roots political activity in Hawaii," Schatz said.
Supporters of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, Obama -- including his half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng -- and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, attended yesterday's news conference to back Schatz as Democratic Party chairman.
"Even though I'm a Clinton supporter, I think Brian could do a great job as party chair," said Rep. Scott Nishimoto (D, Kaimuki-Waikiki).
Schatz also added that he wants to create a sustainable revenue source for the party and to discourage arguments within the party so it could focus on more important issues, such as energy and environmental policies.
The chairman of the party, who serves a two-year term, will be selected at the state's Democratic Convention on May 25.
Schatz said if he were elected, he would vote for Obama.
Amaral, a Clinton supporter, said as a superdelegate she also would vote for Obama because the state caucus results favored Obama 3-to-1.
"Sen. Clinton was my choice for president," Amaral said yesterday, "but the head of the Democratic Party has to be for its members. The chair must vote for the members."
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and National Committeeman Richard Port are staunch Clinton supporters and have said they will vote for her at the Democratic National Convention regardless of Obama's gains. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie favors Obama.
Three other superdelegates, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and National Committeewoman Dolly Strazer, remain undecided.
The remaining two superdelegates -- the party's vice chairman and an at-large spot -- will be decided at or after the state convention.
Monday, April 14, 2008
The state Democratic Party will elect a chairman at its statewide convention May 25. This article originally reported an incorrect date.