Democrats ready for isle convention
This weekend's event will include choosing a new party chairman
Hawaii's politically dominant Democratic Party sets up shop at the Hilton Hawaiian Village today for a three-day biennial convention through Sunday.
The estimated 1,000 delegates are promised nonstop politics as the convention features heated elections for party chair, control of the powerful state central committee, a number of controversial platform issues, plus the chance for Sen. Barack Obama to get up to three more superdelegate votes.
Florence Kong Kee, Democratic Party political director, reports that they have been answering more than 100 e-mails a day from interested Democrats.
"This is going to be an exciting weekend. Definitely there will be a lot of campaigning. This is the first time I have seen this much excitement for a state convention," Kong Kee said.
The big change is the Obama factor. New Democrats joined the party to vote for the Illinois senator running for president at the February Hawaii caucus. The party ranks grew to nearly 50,000 from 18,000, according to party officials.
About two-thirds to three-quarters of the new delegates at the convention are Obama supporters who are new to politics, according to Andy Winer, the Obama campaign's state coordinator.
"We have been working on this convention for two weeks," Winer said this week.
In past presidential election years, candidates have lured people to the Democratic Party, but many did not stay. Old-timers point to the influx of Dennis Kucinich supporters four years ago.
Winer says this time it is different because the Obama delegates are not just a small part of the party.
"The overwhelming majority of the delegates at the convention are going to be Obama supporters," Winer said.
Hawaii has nine superdelegates. Four are already pledged for Obama, Clinton has two and the remaining three will be decided at the convention.
Winer told Obama supporters during a rally on Monday that the Obama delegates could deliver three more votes for Obama if they vote for Brian Schatz for party chairman, Kari Luna for vice chairwoman and James Burns for add-on superdelegate.
Also running for party chairwoman is Annelle Amaral, who said if elected she would also vote for Obama, so the presidential candidate is expected to get one more delegate. Obama already has 14 Hawaii delegate votes, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has six.
Delegates are also scheduled to vote on a new party platform. Up for discussion is whether to take a position on having another state Constitutional Convention. The last one was held 30 years ago, and the Constitution requires that the decision of whether to hold another one be put to the voters every decade. Some Democrats are strongly backing the endorsement of a ConCon, while some labor unions and other groups loyal to the Democratic Party are urging that a ConCon be blocked.
Democrats are scheduled to vote on the platform tomorrow afternoon and also vote for delegates to the national convention, state central committee members and also the presidential electors.
On Sunday, delegates will vote for party chair and the state central committee, which will select the additional delegates to the national convention in Denver this August.