Island Republicans Relish Caucus Votes

Cars filled the Highlands Intermediate School parking lot at 6 p.m. last Tuesday night as local Republicans met in caucus to choose delegates to the Republican National Convention Aug. 27-30 in Tampa, Fla.

Lead volunteer Bill Wong, a retired DOE principal, had gathered 14 volunteers (including his wife, a son, a daughter and his wife’s sister) to aid in the balloting. Observers stood their posts to see that no electioneering took place inside the cafeteria. Someone complained about a caucus-goer’s “Ron Paul Nation” T-shirt, but the problem was quickly resolved.

Wong was pleased with the turnout. Hawaii Republicans knew that earlier in the day former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had won both Alabama and Mississippi, states that would send far more delegates to Tampa than Hawaii’s 17.

Still, they showed up, signed their party cards, grew the GOP mailing lists with their email and snail-mail addresses and telephone numbers, fished out their picture IDs and cast their ballots for Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, George Romney or Santorum.

“I voted for Mitt Romney,” said Peggy Proffitt, “because he’s a businessman. I like what he did at the Olympics. We’ve got to get away from pure politicians.”

Not everyone had made up their mind. One young man, accompanied by his wife and two children, admitted doubts as he pondered his ballot. “I just don’t want Newt Gingrich. I’m still trying to decide. It’s between Romney and Santorum.”

Edwina Mayeda, a self-employed businesswoman, disagreed: “I like Newt. I think he would debate Obama better than the others. Newt’s sharp and decisive. He understands foreign affairs and economics. In the debates, I liked the way he came back at the press with questions.”

Other Republicans acknowledged Gingrich’s intelligence. “Gingrich really is a brilliant man,” said Mike Garcia, a DOE employee, “the most intelligent of the four.” But Garcia wrote Mitt Romney’s name on his ballot. “Romney is the only one with the horsepower to go up against Obama.”

TaKayo Yuen agreed. “I want Romney because I want to get Obama out. I read his book, No Apology. I like his background, his family values, his understanding of the economy. And he can win.”

For others, values trumped all. “We’re very conservative,” said Chris Choy and his wife. “Social issues come first with us, economic issues second. We’re pro-life. And the marriage issue – marriage should be between a man and a woman. We’re for Rick Santorum.”

Republican marrieds don’t always agree. Judy Pryne gave her caucus vote to Gingrich. “I like his experience, he’s been discussing these issues for a long time. And he comes out and says what he’s going to do.”

Said husband Syd: “I’m more conservative. Rick Santorum come on real strong. I like his family values.”

Army veteran Daric Midel gave his caucus vote to Ron Paul. “The guy I voted for last time (Obama) didn’t work out so good. I like Paul. He has a plan and he takes his time and explains his positions well. I don’t get the feeling he’s just telling people what they want to hear.”

By the 7 o’clock hour, the crowd had noticeably thinned. When the votes were counted, the Highlands Intermediate Republicans had given Santorum 96 votes, Romney 84, Gingrich 39, and Paul 30.

Statewide, Romney prevailed, winning 45 percent of the vote and nine convention delegates, Santorum received 25 percent and four delegates, Ron Paul 18 percent and one. Gingrich received 11 percent of the vote, but no delegate.

Three of the GOP’s delegates are party officers and will go uncommitted to the convention.

Editor’s note: The error in last week’s Mostly Politics column regarding timing of the Republican caucuses was not Dan Boylan’s mistake. We regret the editing error.