Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Retired Air Force Col. Shirlene Dela Cruz Ostrov is defining either optimism or insanity as she takes over as head of the Hawaii Republican Party.
Hawai‘i is routinely described as a one-party state, as elected Republicans have dropped to just five in the 51-member state Legislature.
The list of GOP weaknesses include:
• no Republicans in the state Senate;
• two GOP leaders — former state House minority leader Rep. Beth Fukumoto and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa — both leaving the GOP this year; and
• a red state wave that gave the Republicans control of the U.S. House, Senate and White House that completely missed deep blue Hawai‘i.
Hawai‘i posted the nation’s biggest rejection of Donald Trump’s election bid, with the New York billionaire winning only 30 percent of the vote here.
Still, Ostrov says she can find a reasonable way to some political success.
“There are no shortage of people who want a two-party system,” says Ostrov, pointing to that same presidential election.
“Places like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, normally blue states, turned red. Hawai‘i needs to have a balance,” she said in an interview.
Still, the plight of the Hawaii Republican Party was brought into focus when conservative members of the local GOP hounded Fukumoto out of the party this past legislative session after she criticized and refused to support Donald Trump.
Former GOP leader and standard-bearer, Patricia Saiki, a moderate Republican, praises Fukumoto.
“Donald Trump is now the president of the United States, whether you agree with him or don’t. But you don’t have to be ousted from the party if you disagree with him. It is shortsighted,” Saiki said in an interview.
“I like Beth — she is an honorable person; perhaps she was too hasty. Beth carries her feelings on her sleeve and she has made herself into a symbol, and that was not necessary,” Saiki added.
Showing that she still knows how to make a political point, Saiki notes how Fukumoto is now being “interrogated” by the Democrats, who are questioning whether she is progressive enough to join the party.
Fukumoto, who also previously served as Hawai‘i GOP chairwoman, says she understands the Democrats’ questions, adding that her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives “are super-supportive.”
“As far as they are concerned, I am in the Democratic caucus,” Fukumoto said.
Newly elected House Speaker Scott Saiki said he “strongly supports Fukumoto’s application to the Democratic Party.
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