Friday, February 26, 1999

GOP chief slams
push to soften party

'We cannot become another
Democrat Party,' Alcantara
tells supporters

By Mike Yuen


Outgoing state Republican Chairwoman Donna Alcantara told the party faithful last night that she is "proud to be a Republican," firing a thinly veiled criticism at former gubernatorial nominee Linda Lingle and Lingle's campaign manager, Bob Awana.

Alcantara, like many others in the party, is concerned that Awana's likely bid to succeed her is intended primarily to boost the political ambitions of Lingle, the former Maui mayor, and would mean diluting Republican principles to attract disenchanted Democrats and independent voters.

"Those who want to remake the Republican Party in the Democrats' image are wrong," said Alcantara, who did not mention Lingle and Awana by name. "We will never win by flying a banner of soft pastels with words that lack substance. We will win by following Ronald Reagan's example and unfurling a flag of bright, bold colors that proudly proclaim what it is to be a Republican," Alcantara told the 200 people attending the $125-a-person annual Lincoln Day fund-raising dinner.

Slightly more than half the crowd gave Alcantara a standing ovation when she concluded her speech, which was interrupted six times by applause. Lingle remained seated. Awana, a former Democrat who joined the GOP 1-1/2 years ago, stood only when more people began to rise.

Lingle, in her speech, noted that Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP on the day she decided to run for mayor. "Aren't we lucky she did?"

Afterward, Lingle, who moved yesterday to Honolulu and is now living in an apartment near the state Capitol, said while she will be occasionally writing the for Honolulu and Island Business magazines, "the majority of my time will be spent on expanding the Republican Party. I'm doing a lot of speaking. I'm signing up a lot of new Republicans."

Lingle also said she and her closest supporters from Maui are going to the GOP state convention on Kauai in May as alternates "on purpose. We want the new people to be delegates. We want them to get the feel of the convention, the voting, being a participant -- not 'We want you as members, but you sit over there while we're the delegates.' It's not going to work that way."

Awana said he has met with former state House Minority Leader Quentin Kawananakoa, who, at Alcantara's urging, is mulling a bid for the party chairmanship.

Kawananakoa said he still hopes that there will not be a battle for the party leadership. "It may well be that I'm going to support (Awana) 100 percent or he may support me 100 percent," Kawananakoa added. "I would like to make it a win-win situation instead of a win-lose situation."

Alcantara said her speech wasn't just pointed at Lingle and Awana. "It's taking a stand. We didn't win, and everybody is regrouping, asking, 'What are we going to do?'

"I'm committed that we cannot become another Democrat Party. We already have one of those."

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