Democrats rally on Kaua‘i

LIHU‘E — The Democratic Party of Kaua‘i called for grassroots unity at its biannual convention, which attracted more than 80 people, including several candidates for upcoming elections.

“The strength of the Democratic Party has always been in its grassroots organizations,” state Sen. Ron Kouchi, D-Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, said during a break in a series of speeches and a vote on Kaua‘i Democratic Party officers for 2012.

Kouchi attracted the biggest applause from the partisan crowd when he said at the podium, “Let us never make the mistake of electing a Republican governor again.”

Although some candidates will face each other this summer and fall, there was a good-natured feel to the meeting at which Steven Nishimura won re-election as chair of the Kaua‘i Democratic Party.

“Our job will be basically to make sure we all work together as we go forward,” Nishimura said between speeches. The Democratic Party State Convention is scheduled May 25 through May 27.

Paul Weil won a contested bid for party vice chair, Beverly Gotelli won an uncontested bid for secretary and Loyd Clayton won an uncontested bid for treasurer.

Carl Wright was voted information technician, Bernie Sakoda won a contested bid for county State Central Committee female, and Clyde Kodani won a contested bid for county State Central Committee male. Scottlyn Kajiwar was named Young Democratic Female, and Kaaina Hull was voted Young Democrat Male.

Former Congressman Ed Case and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai‘i, who will face each other in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, were on hand to greet the meeting’s participants.

Case said he attended 172 community meetings, including 25 on Kaua‘i, when he served in Congress from 2002 to 2007.

“You have to stay in touch,” Case said during a break, pointing out that his father was born and raised in Lihu‘e. It’s not just about listening to the communities of Hawai‘i, he said. “You have to bring Washington to them.”

Hirono, who arrived after an earlier rally outside the Historic County Courthouse, said bipartisan efforts are what will lead to success in promoting the education, agriculture and transportation needs of Kaua‘i.

“I have relationships going back a long time,” she said. “I work in partnership with communities.”

Hirono said seniors are worried about threats to Medicare funding, women are worried about “assaults on women’s health,” and “young people care about how they’re going to go to college.”

Case also talked about the need to grow more jobs, and strengthen the transportation and education infrastructure.

“It starts with a good tax and regulatory balance in Washington that we don’t have right now,” he said.

“Many of us have a feeling of disillusionment with our leaders,” Case said. “We can do better than this. We have to do better than this.”

In addition to Yukimura, County Council members KipuKai Kuali‘i, Nadine Nakamura, Mel Rapozo and County Council Chair Jay Furfaro were also on hand for the half-day meeting.

“I’m very thankful to be part of a County Council that’s all Democrats,” Yukimura said.

Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., like many others in attendance, said he wanted to hear the “different candidates” speak on the issues.

“We have to come together collectively and support each other,” the mayor said during a break in the speeches. “It’s all about the island.”

Also on hand to address island party members were state Reps. Derek Kawakami (Hanalei, Anahola, Kealia, Kapa‘a and Waipouli), Jimmy Tokioka (Lihu‘e and Koloa) and Dee Morikawa (Ni‘ihau, Lehua, Koloa and Waimea).

Tokioka said most constituents are worried about jobs, as well as affordable housing. Young people will need an education and work experience, which makes investing in education vital, he said.

Infrastructure projects supported by the Kaua‘i delegation are providing jobs, he said, but the “green energy” field of alternative energy and conservation also will create future employment opportunities. “That’s where the jobs are going to be — green energy,” Tokioka said.

Tulsi Gabbard and Esther Kia‘aina were among candidates on hand representing the five-candidate slate for the 2nd District House seat now held by Hirono.

Kia‘aina said a challenging economy did not discourage her, but rather encouraged her to run for the office. “It’s even more important I should be running,” she said, including the economy and women’s health as issues she said are important. “I have a record of achievement,” she said.

Kia‘aina, chief advocate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and Gabbard, a member of the Honolulu City Council, will face lawyer Bob Marx, lawyer Rafael del Castillo and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Aug. 11 primary for the congressional seat.

Kaua‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho was not at Saturday’s meeting, but her opponent Justin Kollar was on hand to greet voters.

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