LIHUE — The Kauai Republican Party is gathering Saturday for the county convention and recent infighting between a district chairman and the chairman points to a controversial convention.
It all stems from two things — a battle for the county chair position and the choosing of delegates for the May 11 Hawaii Republican Party State Convention in Maui.
District 14 Chair David Hamman alleges that KRP County Chair Steve Yoder is sidestepping rules to appoint delegates on his own instead of allowing that power for the district chairs — and moving the date of the convention in order to do it.
On Feb. 9, the party had precinct elections and Hamman secured the district chair seat. Then, he left on a two-week trip to Israel. At the same time, Yoder was consulting district chairs in setting up the Kauai County convention. Originally, it was set for April 20, but it was moved up to March 23. That meant there was a need to get delegates chosen in a faster timeframe, since the deadline to chose delegates is 10 days before the convention.
Hamman says Yoder moved the convention date up a month in order to be in a timeframe where the rules would allow him to appoint delegates of his choosing instead of “letting district chairs do our jobs.”
“I’ve been intensely recruiting and am in the vetting process,” Hamman said Thursday. “I went on vacation to Israel and two days before I got back, I got the email that he’d changed the date. It was a total shocker. None of us newly elected chairs got contacted.”
Yoder, however, says he changed the date of the convention at Hamman’s request.
“He made me read the rules and it does say you can’t have the convention in April, so we had to do March,” Yoder said Thursday. “So, I moved it to March. He wanted March 30th, but the venue we booked wasn’t available, so I went with the 23rd.”
Yoder has been Kauai chair of the Republican party for five years.
Hamman said Thursday he’s running for Yoder’s position as chair.
It’s not just the date of the convention that’s causing infighting. Hamman says he’s sure Yoder was appointing delegates when he was away from Kauai in Israel. Yoder says he wasn’t.
“He took off for Israel and I hustled and did my job as county chair and found people who self-nominated,” Yoder said.
Hamman also maintains he sent in a list of delegates before the March 13 deadline and it wasn’t ever confirmed received. Yoder says he never received a list.
The conflict is expected to surround the appointing of delegates on Saturday. Hamman claims a dissatisfaction he and others have with Yoder’s leadership and says he’s demanding Kauai Republicans have a louder voice in state politics.
“When we go to the convention, we’ll stand in solidarity and say ‘you have to recognize the power to appoint the delegates by the district chairs,’” Hamman said. “In general, what we’re all about, we want a voice and we’re tired that there’s no opposition on things like assisted suicide and immoral spending.”
Yoder pointed out that since he’s been chair, no one else has gotten Republicans elected to Kauai County legislative chairs, either.
He said the Republican Party on Kauai has grown from about 30 to 180 under his leadership as chair. He said he did that by pounding the streets and talking to people.
“I have grown the party,” he said.
The RPK county convention is Saturday at the Lihue Missionary Church, 4383 Rice Street from 3 to 5 p.m. The speaker will be newly elected Republican Rep. Valerie Okimoto and the convention is open to the public.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.