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National GOP to meet in isles


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POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hawaii may be the birthplace of President Barack Obama and one of the nation's Democratic strongholds, but Republicans have picked Honolulu as the site of their winter national committee meeting.

The gathering will be held Jan. 27-30 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village and should attract most of the GOP's leaders from all 50 states.

Jonah Kaauwai, state Republican Party chairman, said the estimates are for 168 state and territory GOP chairs and the national committeemen and committeewomen, along with guests and media, to attend.

National GOP chairman Michael Steele will lead the meeting, which is expected to address an already controversial resolution to be introduced by 11 national committee members. The so-called “;purity test”; would forbid the party from helping or funding candidates who stray from the party platform.

Kaauwai said he questioned the proposal, calling it “;divisive,”; fearing it would cause splits within the party.

“;Anything that is divisive within the party doesn't seem to help us in the long term,”; Kaauwai said.

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The national GOP will also use the four-day Honolulu meeting to prepare for the 2010 elections, according to Jahan Wilcox, the Republican National Committee's regional press secretary.

The meeting, Wilcox said, will serve to highlight the importance the GOP puts on keeping Hawaii's governor a Republican. The national party is looking at helping Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona if, as expected, he wins the local Republican primary.

“;Also, there is an open congressional seat,”; Wilcox said. “;We think we have our best chance in a decade, so we are very optimistic about coming to Hawaii.”;

Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou has already said he will run to fill the seat being vacated by Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who is running for governor. Two Democrats, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case, are also in the race.

For the local GOP, Kaauwai said a series of rallies, meetings and dinners are being planned. Also, Gov. Linda Lingle, who will be starting her final year leading the state, will be featured during the meeting.

“;She is going to be a vital part of the conference. She will be a keynote speaker and the national party knows she has been a Republican leader in a completely Democratic state,”; Kaauwai said.

The party said it was too early to get firm commitments from other speakers for the meeting, but Kaauwai said that tentatively Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to speak. Pawlenty is one of several GOP leaders considering a 2012 run for president.