Democrats want top slots back

For this election year, Kaua’i County Democratic Party Chairman Martin Rice has dedicated all his waking hours to defeating Gov. Linda Lingle, the state’s first Republican governor in 40 years.

Another key goal, he says, is to dismantle Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste’s administration.

Rice emphasized those two points during an interview with The Garden Island in which he explained his goals for his party as election-year campaigning gets underway.

The time for the Democrats to retake control of the governor’s office and Kaua’i County’s highest public office is now, he said.

“Lingle has proved to be ineffectual,” he said. “She can’t work with the (state) Legislature, which has been dominated by the Democrats.”

The loss of five Republican legislative seats to Democratic office-holders during the mid-term of the Legislative session shows the Republican Party’s power is eroding, Rice said.

Rice also said he will do whatever is necessary to oust Baptiste, because he feels “he is trashing the island.”

“There is a literal trash problem,” Rice said. “The roadsides are an abomination, and the Republican-induced, Adopt-A-Highway program of the past 12 years has been a failure for the most part. The road litter (on state highways, which Baptiste has no jurisdiction over, but Lingle does) is evidence of that.”

At the county level, Baptiste has struck out by not being decisive in setting up a solid-waste-management plan in a timely manner, Rice contends. The plan is still being worked on.

“It will probably continue to be ignored by this administration to completely rectify the problem,” Rice said. “The problem is a seven-year proposition for a four-year-term mayor.” Finding a solution has languished because the county has been run by two Republican mayors since 1994, when Maryanne Kusaka first took office and ran the county until 2002, Rice said. “Kusaka came in with a waste-management program on her desk, and ignored it,” he said.

Managing future trash may be beyond control because “there are 30-plus developments waiting to be launched,” he said.

Baptiste has said he can’t be blamed for the rampant development that is occurring now, because, for the most part, the land for the projects was zoned for resort and commercial uses long before he took office some four years ago.

If anything strengthened the Kaua’i County Democratic Party, it was the decisions by Kaua’i County Council Vice Chair James Tokioka and Councilman Jay Furfaro to join his party, Rice said.

“It has underscored the basic emptiness of the Republican philosophy, which is greed, greed and more greed,” Rice said.

Having Tokioka and Furfaro on board will bolster the strength of the Kaua’i County Democratic Party, Rice said. “They have credibility, and they have returned to the party of inclusion.”

In his opinion, the party has gained political mileage from Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura, and Councilman Mel Rapozo, who have scrutinized the administration at every turn.

Rapozo was not politically aligned previously, but joined the Kaua’i County Democratic Party in June 2005, Rice said, and he is a welcomed addition.

Rice said he personally has not had to implement strategies to make the party stronger.

“The party is growing stronger just as a reaction to the Republican governance,” Rice said.

At the national level, “People are seeing the direction our country and our nation is headed (under President George Bush), and they see the direction the governor would like to take the state in, and it is the wrong way,” Rice said.

How so?

“They are appealing to the hard right wing of their party, whose philosophy is to erode our civil rights, foist religion on people and empower the wealthy,” Rice said.

More and more people are joining the Democratic Party, Rice contends, “in response to what the Republican Party has done to the nation and the county, and is trying to do with the state, and that is the Republican agenda, war,” Rice said.

The Democratic Party is different from the Republican Party because it has always been the party for the “little person, the small businessman, the disenfranchised, the workers.”

His party, he said, has championed civil rights, a clean environment, safe working conditions, a livable wage and affordable housing.

The Republican Party leaders only talk “the same message,” he said.

“They like to give money to power entities to solve the problems, and corporations generate profit off the taxpayers,” Rice said. “This is the basic Republican philosophy.”

Rice has been the chairman of the Kaua’i County Democratic Party nearly two years, taking over from Clyde Kodani.

The Kaua’i County Democratic Party precinct caucuses are scheduled to be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Hanalei courthouse, Kilauea Neighborhood Center, Anahola Club-house, Wailua Houselots Park pavilion, Hawaii Government Employees Association head-quarters on ‘Akahi Street in Lihu’e, the Koloa Neighborhood Center, the Kaumakani Neighborhood Center, the Waimea Neighborhood Center, and the Kekaha Neighborhood Center pavilion.

“Meet the candidates nights” occur periodically on Mondays. Call Rice at 822-7171 for more information on the party.

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