Amaral in race to lead isles’ Democratic Party
Former Hawaii legislator Brian Schatz now has a race for the chairmanship of the state Democratic Party.
Annelle Amaral, outgoing chairwoman of the Oahu County Democratic Party, said recently she will run against Schatz at the May 23 state convention.
"We are the Democratic Party, and you can't have democracy without contested elections," said Amaral, who acknowledged that Schatz has a significant advantage.
Before announcing as a party chairman candidate, Schatz was chief spokesman for the local campaign to elect Barack Obama president.
The former state representative, now chief executive officer of the social service agency Helping Hands Hawaii, has been endorsed by Obama.
In a news release, Obama praised Schatz, saying he could "bring about real change."
Amaral, also a former state representative, said she expects Schatz to have many of the new Democrats brought to the convention by the February caucus that saw the party rolls go from 24,000 to 54,000.
As many of 500 out of the expected 800 delegates are expected to be Obama supporters, Amaral said.
Schatz said recently that while he still supports Obama for president, he has to take a more inclusive approach in the campaign for party chairman.
"My role has changed. I am going to be focusing on uniting the Democrats and building the party, whoever the nominee is.
"We have got to remember we have two extraordinary candidates who have generated unprecedented enthusiasm and passion," Schatz said.
The party chairman is one of the unpledged superdelegates, and it appears that if either Schatz or Amaral wins the chairmanship, Obama will get another superdelegate vote, because Amaral said she will vote for Obama because he won the majority of Hawaii caucus votes.
Amaral said she wants the Democrats to come up with a new source of funding so the party can buy a headquarters, as the local Republican Party did several years ago.
"We have to have a predictable source of income, perhaps a foundation. If the party can be financially self-sustaining, the voice of the Democratic Party can be independent," Amaral said.
Noting that the last two party chairmen, Brickwood Galuteria and Mike McCartney, had no experience working inside the party, Amaral said she had been working to organize past Democratic conventions and had served as a county chairwoman.
"You have to know where all the gears and levers are if you want to move the party forward," Amaral said.
Schatz said his goal as party chairman would be to involve the thousands of new Democrats who joined during the caucuses -- "engaging the new members without displacing the old ones."