LIHUE — The Hawaii Republican Party’s Finance Committee Chair resigned abruptly Thursday, stating complaints against key officials in the party as his reason.
In his letter of resignation, Mark Blackburn says he still fully supports the party and the party’s political nominees, but goes on to say the actions of Committeewoman Miriam Hellreich and Vice Chair Pat Saiki have obstructed the party’s efforts to build a new Hawaii Republican Party.
“Committeewoman Hellreich must be held responsible for undermining our party,” he wrote to Chairman DelaCruz Santiago Ostrov. “Her continuous obstruction and endless resistance has crossed the line. The same for Vice Chairman Saiki. It is directly impacting our party and depriving our nominees of the ability to win. It’s almost as if Committeewoman Hellreich is a liberal Democrat resisting President Donald Trump for no reason other than resistance.”
The letter states that despite Hellreich’s continuous obstruction, the party has been able to pay off their debt and mortgage on the party’s headquarters and has continued to raise money for the party’s nominees in this year’s election.
“Yet our party is unable to spend its money and support our nominees,” Blackburn said.
In a phone interview with The Garden Island newspaper, Hellreich said Blackburn’s accusations against her are completely untrue.
“I’ve been a major fundraiser for the Republican Party for the last 20 years,” she said.
Hellreich, who recruited Blackburn to the party two years ago, said his letter is self-serving and she’s not sure what his motives were in sending it.
“It was very insulting and he’s very uninformed about what I and Pat Saiki have done for the party for many years,” she said.
For the past two years, Hellreich said she’s always been nice to Blackburn, serving as his mentor, and all of a sudden he turned in a different direction.
“I think it’s an intra-party kind of squabble,” she said. “In this particular case, I think the information is very insulting and it’s untrue.”
Blackburn was equally critical of Saiki, writing she is “responsible for the toxic environment plaguing our party, as instead of gracefully exiting the stage and enjoying her retirement, she continues to interfere with your leadership as chairman.”
Saiki, who has served as a state legislator, as a member of Congress and as the administrator for the Small Business Administration, a post she was appointed to by President George Bush, agreed that the letter was insulting, but despite the allegations against her she is going to continue her work within the party.
“I will not have my credentials criticized by someone who has only served the party for a year and a half,” she said.
On the heels of Blackburn’s resignation, the party will be able to move forward in their effort to fulfill their mission, which is to get people elected to office, she said.
“We are going to continue to build because I think the state needs a two-party system. We’ll work hard together to achieve that goal,” Saiki said.
Thursday’s resignation took Kauai GOP Chair Steve Yoder by surprise. He was on Oahu Tuesday and had dinner with Blackburn.
“It was very pleasant. I had no clue he was thinking of resigning,” Yoder said.
Yoder said he has mixed feelings about the resignation, but if it’s something Blackburn wants and thinks it will help the party, then so be it.
“I do not know what his strategy is, but he always has one. What he’s doing now is to further the Republican party,” he said.
Resignations aren’t necessarily a bad thing, Yoder said.
“People think the sky is falling, it’s Chicken-Little time, but the Republican Party is fine. We’re looking forward to the absentee ballot dropping and the election finishing Nov. 6,” he said.
Former Kauai County councilmember and state senator Gary Hooser had a different opinion about Blackburn’s resignation and Hawaii’s GOP.
“The Republican Party has been in turmoil in Hawaii for a long time,” he said. “Certainly the last year it’s been really bad. There are factions within the Republican Party that are very disruptive, who want to push the party further to the right.”
Hooser said his biggest complaint with the party is that its candidates refuse to disavow the actions, statements and policies of Trump.
“What’s going on right now in Washington, D.C., is lunacy, and it’s dangerous, and it does not bode well for the future of our country. Until Republicans stand up and be counted on this issue it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change,” he said.
Blackburn wrote that, “After 60 years of failed, one-party rule, I believe Hawaii Republicans are best positioned to ensure a brighter future for the next generation — a future that doesn’t involve waving goodbye to our keiki, as too many families do today.”
Despite this week’s shakeup, Hellreich said she believes the Hawaii GOP has a bright future with some excellent candidates running this election cycle. But she’s very disappointed in Blackburn’s statements.
“Everybody’s free to have their opinions, but they’re not free to change the facts. Unfortunately, he changed the facts in this case,” she said.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.