author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Hawaii’s GOP
is running as fast
as it can

When Hawaii's Republican Party shuts the books on 2003 it is likely to have raised the staggering sum of $1 million. Even more amazing than the money picked up by the GOP is the calculation by party officials that much of it has been spent already.

After two decades running more as a cult than a political party, the Republicans are moving ahead with an organized, business-like plan to build a foundation for an entirely new and permanent political party.

Brennon Morioka, GOP executive director and party chairman, is one of three paid staff members working at the party's Kapiolani Boulevard headquarters. Besides salaries, the state GOP is paying off a mortgage on its ground-floor office.

The bulk of the funds, Morioka says, goes to candidate training. Beginning in January, the training schedule features classes to "learn what information you will need to research, how to analyze and interpret vote history and demographics of your district and learn step-by-step what you need to do to start your campaign," according to the GOP Web site.

Other training will focus on databases and campaign strategy. Morioka adds that the candidates also will get help as the party sends out absentee vote mailers and coordinates get-out-the-vote campaigns.

Democrats, who once ruled the fund-raising world, did their own candidate training for selected prospective public servants and steered union support to favored newcomers. But newcomers couldn't step on the toes of incumbents, giving little room for fresh blood to wash over the party.

Republicans, because they are still a decided minority, have lots of Democratic toes to squash, so it is easier for them to recruit interested candidates.

Alex Santiago, the unpaid Democratic Party chairman and executive director, says the party is starting its own fund-raising drive and will have a Jefferson Day dinner next year to raise money, just like the GOP does with its Lincoln Day dinners.

Asked about party finances, Santiago laughs, describing them as being "in a state of growth." Records show that the Democrats spent about $86,000 during the first six months of the year. The House Democrats have their own political action committee that was able to raise about $45,000 during the same period.

To Santiago, the Democrats figure that Lingle and her administration mostly are about media and public relations.

Lingle, Santiago says, still doesn't recognize where a campaign ends and governing begins.

Others, however, see the Democrats caught in a stage where their program is put up in comparison to the programs proposed by the Republican state administration, as opposed to being the only show in town.

Democratic critics are calling the new GOP a party built around Governor Lingle and public relations, but in doing so they ignore at their peril both the GOP's explosive growth and its rigorous organization.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at


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