The three-day state Democratic Party convention kicked off in record fashion Friday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort in Waikiki.
The event promises to be “an historic event in an historic political year,” said Florence Kong Kee, Democratic Party of Hawai‘i political director.
“In what is turning out to be one of the largest conventions in memory, more than 1,000 delegates, alternate delegates and superdelegates have registered to attend,” he said, adding this number is expected to grow as walk-in registrations continue.
The party holds its state convention every two years.
“It is a time when resolutions are passed and the party platform is developed,” Kaua‘i Democratic Party Chair Linda Estes said. “It is also a gathering place for candidates who are running for office in the coming election and it is an opportunity for Hawai‘i Democrats to hear from the members of the Congressional delegation. It is a time when officers of the state party are elected and, in a presidential election year, when delegates are elected to the national convention.”
The delegates and alternate delegates are Democratic Party members elected by fellow Democrats at the statewide caucuses to represent their precinct at the convention, Kee said.
Superdelegates are current or former party leaders and elected officials who, because of their status, are automatically seated at the convention, he said.
“The 2008 convention is riding the wave of excitement and energy generated by the Feb. 19 caucuses where 30,000 voters joined the Democratic Party in order to express their preference for a presidential candidate,” Kee said.
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois received 75.7 percent of the votes. U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York earned 23.6 percent, which resulted in 14 pledged delegates for Obama and six for Clinton to be elected to go to the national convention.
The secret ballot election of these pledged delegates took place yesterday, but results were unavailable at press time.
“As you can expect, these races are generating their own excitement as delegates, both old-timers and newcomers, want their chance to be part of the unprecedented national convention in Denver in August when Democrats will nominate either the first African-American and Hawai‘i-born candidate or the first female candidate for our nation’s highest office,” Kee said.
Some 100 delegates from Kaua‘i are expected to attend the state convention.
The island’s superdelegates are state Sen. Gary Hooser; Reps. Hermina Morita, Roland Sagum and James Tokioka; and County Council members Bill “Kaipo” Asing, Mel Rapozo, Tim Bynum, Jay Furfaro, Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, Ron Kouchi and JoAnn Yukimura.
“The state convention is important to Kaua‘i residents because it gives them an opportunity for their voice to be heard in resolutions and the platform and they have a say in the election of party officers and delegates to the national convention,” Estes said. “It is also the only time they get to discuss issues with Democrats from all of the other islands. Lastly, it is a time for the party faithful to get together and have a good time with like-minded folks, celebrate being Democrats, brag about our candidates and talk about what a terrible Republican administration we have.”
Kee said this is a great time to be a Democrat in Hawai‘i.
The unprecedented caucus turnout and the phenomenal interest in the 2008 elections mean not only good things for Democrats and Hawai‘i this year, he said, but for years to come.
Speakers at the state convention yesterday included Congressman Neil Abercrombie, comedian Frank de Lima and Congresswoman Mazie Hirono.