We don’t get a chance too often to write anything about the Hawaii Republican Party because, well, we live in Hawaii. Sure, the dozen or so individuals trying to grab the Republican presidential nomination offer nothing but screaming headlines these days concerning their, well, let’s be generous and say “controversial” stances over immigration, racism, abortion, torture, the Iraq War, climate change and women in general, to just name a few. But here in Hawaii, the Republican Party is a bit of a non-story.
By my count, just a sliver of the state Legislature has the little “R” next to their names–one in the Senate (out of 25 members) and seven in House (out of 51). That means less than 11 percent of the Hawaii is Republican, leaving the other 89 percent controlled by Democrats.
Dealing with that situation (okay, disaster) is newly appointed Hawaii Republican Party Executive Director Marcia Tagavilla. “Marcia joins us with an outstanding record of service and leadership in the Party,” said State Party Chair Fritz Rohlfing, in an Aug. 26 news release from the state GOP. “She will move us forward in electing more Republicans to state and federal offices in 2016.”
Yeah, good luck with that. Tagavilla will probably do as well as anyone else in such a thankless job, but keep in mind she’s still fairly new to politics (her first political job seems to have been a Hawaii Republican Party intern in 2010). In 2014, she ran as a candidate in her only political contest so far, for state representative in House District 32 (Salt Lake/Aliamanu). Her opponent, Democratic Party incumbent Linda Ichiyama, trounced her by 32.7 percentage points.
Still, Hawaii GOP officials see even that loss as evidence of Tagavilla’s strength.
“As a first-time Republican candidate running against an entrenched Democrat incumbent in a district easily carried by David Ige in the gubernatorial race, Marcia’s people-oriented campaign resulted in a significant improvement over our 2012 nominee’s vote percentage and placed her among the top ten Republican candidates challenging previously-elected Democrat incumbents” said Pat Saiki, immediate past chairperson of the Republican Party, in an Aug. 26 state GOP news release on Tagavilla’s appointment.
Saiki’s take on Tagavilla’s 2014 campaign certainly sounds reasonable, until you look at the actual election results, which show Saiki’s use of the words “significant improvement” is questionable. In 2014, 2,340 people voted for Tagavilla, giving her 32.2 percent of the vote. And while it’s true that in 2012, Republican Garner Shimizu got just 28.4 percent of the vote when running against Ichiyama, he also won 2,375 votes–35 more votes than Tagavilla won two years later.
Then again, we’re talking Hawaii Republicans here. Given their political track record over the last 60 years or so, it would be hard for any leadership to make matters worse for them.
Photo courtesy Marcia Tagavilla’s LinkedIn page