Hawaii Democrats require new faces
The dominant party in Hawaii has a contested election for its chairmanship.
Hawaii Democrats, energized by a heated presidential contest, also have a competition going for state chairman, signaling a potential shift in the party that has seen membership balloon by 30,000, more than doubling the previous enrollment.
The race for the post indicates a reshaping of the party that has dominated state politics and government for more than a half century and in bad need of new blood, perspectives and fresh faces to push Hawaii forward.
Changes here would mirror a movement in the national party where a younger generation of Democrats have propelled the previous to reconsider established ways. Much of the interest and enthusiasm follows Barack Obama, whose candidacy hopes to transform the divisiveness that has overwhelmed the national agenda and alienated voters who feel disconnected from the denizens inside the Washington beltway.
Hawaii Democrats will choose either Brian Schatz or Annelle Amaral to head the state organization at a convention later this month. Whoever wins will have to fuse longtime members with the newer contingent, a challenge since much of the party's influence remains solidly fixed in elder statesmen like Daniel Inouye.
As much as he remains revered, the U.S. senator is tied to a period to which a dwindling number of voters have strong reference. While Inouye has stalwartly represented a small state's interests, the party should acknowledge it needs wider foundations. It also needs leadership that is more diverse, particularly in the state Legislature where voters increasingly seek independent voices.
Though an unconventional Republican, Gov. Linda Lingle's popularity demonstrates the appeal of someone outside the dictates of the presiding party. Democrats should take heed.
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