The road doesn’t get easier for the Hawai‘i GOP
Hawai‘i Republicans need to do some careful thinking about their path forward after their devastating losses in the general election.
Failing to share in a strong GOP showing across the country, local Republicans lost the governor’s office they’d held for eight years, lost their best chance at winning a congressional seat in 20 years and scored only a minimal gain in the Legislature despite considerable effort.
Many in the party are disheartened that during eight years of the Lingle administration, with control of state patronage and the leverage it provides to groom future leaders, the party has few fresh marketable candidates.
The GOP caucus in the state House is down to eight from 19 the year before Linda Lingle was elected, and its numbers in the Senate have dropped from a high of five during the Lingle years to one.
The only potential Republican candidates with any heft are Lingle and the three who lost the big races this year — James “Duke” Aiona, Lynn Finnegan and Charles Djou.
Lingle will almost certainly run for U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in 2012 with heavy support from the national GOP as it fights to take control of the Senate, but there’s no clear way back in for Aiona, Finnegan and Djou if they have interest in trying again.
There were only a handful of legislative races where Republicans came close enough to have reasonable hope of making it over the top against entrenched Democratic incumbents next time.
The barriers are philosophical as much as practical; the GOP is unlikely to gain ground unless the local party settles sharp internal divisions over whether it should turn more moderate or conservative, and how cozy the party should get with religious groups.
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