State Republicans energized
Hawaii delegates recall the spotlight from the convention
ST. PAUL, Minn. » Now the race really begins.
For Hawaii delegates coming off last week's Republican National Convention, so, too, does their work back at home.
"Our responsibility is to go back to the people of Hawaii and not only share the enthusiasm, but share the positive things - the strengths - that each of these candidates has to offer," said Marlene Hapai, a first-time convention delegate from Kurtistown, on the Big Island.
Republicans from Hawaii and the other 49 states arrived in Minneapolis a week ago not sure whether their convention would even happen.
But as the fears from Hurricane Gustav subsided 1,000 miles to the South, so did the dark cloud hovering over the Xcel Energy Center.
"As the weather has improved so has the excitement. It's just been wonderful," Hapai said.
Even before GOP presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain took the stage on the convention's final session, the buzz was on vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old mother of five and first-term governor from Alaska.
"There's a lot of electricity in the room,' said Brian DiMartino, an alternate delegate from Maui. "It was really a historic moment and she was unbelievable. She delivered an unbelievable speech. She's a pro and she showed it. It was a great introduction for all of us."
"It was just so great hearing somebody talk straight," said delegate Adrienne King of Oahu. "She was just so refreshing and is just such a quintessential American woman of the 21st century."
Hawaii got its turn in the convention spotlight too.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Aiea resident Jerry Coffee, who was a prisoner of war with McCain during the Vietnam War, served as campaign surrogates all week.
Lingle focused on her friendship with Palin and their shared political experiences, doing interviews with CNN, NBC, the BBC and newspapers from around the world.
Although she was supposed to address the convention on Tuesday night, along with keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani, the rescheduling of events and speeches left both of them as featured speakers Wednesday night, just ahead of Palin.
Lingle's roughly 17-minute speech hit on the Palin's family background, her five children, and her life as a "hockey mom" in Alaska and small-town beauty pageant winner, before getting into Palin's public life, which began as a journalist and later mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and then governor.
"We have the best candidates for president and vice president, and Gov. Lingle just went and told some of the story of Sarah Palin and we loved it," said Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Willes Lee. "We loved hearing more about her; we know she's the best choice for America.
"Having Linda Lingle on stage to tell us that, it was perfect for the Hawaii delegation and for the convention."
Lingle's place on stage was largely different from four years ago, when she opened one of the sessions of the GOP convention at Madison Square Garden.
"I had a lot of fun being out there," said Lingle, "I thought Sarah did a fantastic job.
"I have been talking to people for two days, saying that if they would just get to know her and meet her they would be as excited as I was and I think that's what happened.
"They saw her the way I had. She's smart, she's funny, she's tough, she's gracious and I think all that came through."
Watching most of the convention from home in Honolulu, Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz said Republicans did not talk about the economy, but stressed the personality of the candidates.
"If your candidate can't articulate how to navigate through this difficult period, it is going to be a major problem for them during the campaign," Schatz said. "They talked a lot about Barack Obama, but they haven't talked about what people are going through today, they tried to make it personal, because they can't talk about the issues."
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca contributed to this report.