Brickwood Galuteria, left, and Jimmy Toyama shook hands yesterday before the opening ceremonies of the state Democratic Convention. They are competing against each other for the unpaid post of party chairman.

Isle Democrats meet in
atmosphere of openness

With an influx of new party members, the state Democratic Party this weekend is debating the influence of corporations on democracy; whether to support Israel or Palestine; and whether President Bush should be impeached.

Democrats, gathering at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel for their biennial convention, are going through hundreds of resolutions, many introduced by first-time delegates who were drawn to the party because of a dislike for Bush and the early excitement of the Democratic presidential primary.

One resolution in rhyme declares: "Whereas alien ANIMALS trample and tromp, Invade the forest -- chompity chomp ... "

The Palestine resolution says: "U.S. support for Israeli government politics has alienated public opinion in much of the world, especially Muslim countries, increased dangers to U.S. citizens and undermined the war on terrorism."

A resolution criticizing "corporate personhood in the state of Hawaii" asks for a public discussion on the "role of corporations in public life."

Outgoing party Chairman Alex Santiago said he isn't sure if those kinds of resolutionswould even be passed by committees, let alone be approved by the convention.

"We don't censor any resolutions; anyone can put in a resolution," Santiago said. "We have a lot of liberal people in the party, and they have no hesitation in letting their opinion be known."

The new feeling of participation and openness was praised by both newcomers and party regulars.

Carolyn Wilcox, who joined the Hawaii Democratic Party in 1969, said the "new influx of people who want to participate" will help Democrats win elections this fall.

Another party veteran, George Yokoyama from Hilo, said he has noticed "new faces all over, from Hilo to Kona and even in plantation communities."

John Buckstead, the new Big Island party chairman, said new Democrats on the Big Island will vote for Democrats because of Republican President Bush.

Patricia Blair, a new Democrat attending her first political convention, agreed, saying she was previously independent, although she voted for Democrats.

"I'm here because I am disgusted with the war," said Blair, who supports U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich in his bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

Another Kucinich supporter, Cecile Smith, praised the veteran Democrats, saying, "The old-timers are welcoming new blood."

Smith said she hopes the Democrats will support "progressive" resolutions calling for "clean air, water, universal health care and getting us out of Iraq."

Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and a former candidate for the party's president nomination, was expected to address the Democratic convention. Dean hosted a fund-raiser last night for U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and is expected to host another one for the Democratic Party tonight.

Tomorrow, isle Democrats will select a new party chairman. Entertainer and radio personality Brickwood Galuteria is competing against longtime party worker Jimmy Toyama for the unpaid post.

Hawaii Democrats


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