The Democratic Party of Hawaii – Unity, Trust, Resistance and Moving Forward 

I want to thank Keali’i Lopez and Tim Vandeveer for their commitment to the Democratic Party, and for being willing to “put themselves out there”, for all of us.

In a 529-472 (weighted) vote this past Sunday, May 27, Tim Vandeveer, the Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, lost his bid for re-election. As per the Party Bylaws, votes are weighted for delegates that had to travel to the Convention from a different island.

There are cautions and wisdom to be gleaned from what transpired.

I love Tim.  He is an awesome human being who at one time stood up for me when I needed him.  On Friday, I flew to the Democratic Convention in Kona to stand up for him.

It was an exhausting roller coaster of a weekend consisting essentially of a battle between what most would label the establishment and progressive wings of the Democratic Party (less nuanced observers might say the corporate and the democratic socialist factions).

Upon arrival at the convention I discovered that the person competing for the position of Party Chair, Keali’i Lopez, is a registered lobbyist whose clients include the agrochemical industry.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

We spend years fighting this industry and now their lobbyist is going to be put in charge of our Party?

Anger, shock and disbelief came together in me at that moment, fueling even greater personal resolve to ensure Tim’s victory.

As the events at the convention unfolded, I told myself that this could not be happening and that if the corporate lobbyist won, I was done with the Democratic Party.  I would walk out of the convention, quit the Party and just move on.

But in his gracious and wise remarks on stage following his loss, Tim Vandeveer convinced me otherwise.  He reminded me and the other 600 attendees in the room of our common values and that we are all in this together.  He spoke of the unity of purpose that brought us to the Democratic Party in the first place, and had brought all of us together for that weekend.

The impulse to quit and walk away quickly shifted to a desire to roll up my sleeves and work even harder.  I then spoke briefly to our new Party Chair Keali’i Lopez offering my congratulations and expressing my willingness to help her move our Party forward.  Her response was gracious and receptive.

In a conversation earlier in the day, prior to the election, she and I had engaged in another fairly animated discussion where I expressed my strong concerns about her role as a corporate lobbyist.  She pushed back hard, defending her occupation and her ability and commitment to serve as Party Chair.  We agreed to disagree on this point, reaffirmed our mutual respect and then shared a commitment to work together for the common good.

I don’t doubt her good intentions. But I have no reason to trust the intentions of the corp ag industry, who employ her as a lobbyist.

For five years I have watched them use every tool at their disposal, from threats to lawsuits to thwart the community’s desire to shield their children from dangerous neurotoxins in pesticides sprayed near schools and homes. That is not going to change. Now their lobbyist is leading the Democratic Party. What should we anticipate them doing?

Tim Vandeveer’s loss was a huge disappointment for many across the State. However, in these fractious times when women and indigenous rights are being trampled upon, there is much to celebrate in the election of Keali’i Lopez.

The convention weekend included many significant wins.  Our unwavering support of economic, social and environmental justice remains intact, and many new strong progressives were elected to the State Central Committee (SCC) and key Party leadership positions.

While I had not gone to the convention with the intention of running for election to a Party leadership position, the transition of leadership at the top of the Party motivated me to run for and consequently be elected to the #2 slot, of Vice-Chair.

It’s up to the community now to hold all of us, and the entire apparatus of the Democratic Party accountable. Can we serve competing interests? Can we indeed protect and enhance the public good while at the same time protecting corporate profits?  Or is there an inherent conflict of interest when compelled to do both?

Thank you Tim Vandeveer  for your leadership and service.  I look forward now to working together with Keali’i Lopez as Chair of our Party.

Mahalo as well to friends and convention delegates who encouraged me to run for the Vice-Chair position and offered their support.   I am looking forward to working with all of you and our extended Ohana through-out Hawaii to achieve our shared core vision of justice.

Now more than ever, we need everyone to sit up, pay attention, seek solutions and ask tough questions that transcend place of birth, the 2016 elections, and special interests.

Most of all we need each and every one of you to vote.

This past weekends election should leave you in no doubt that YOUR vote matters.

And yes, tell a friend to vote too.

*First published in The Garden Island Newspaper on May 30, 2018.

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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11 Responses to The Democratic Party of Hawaii – Unity, Trust, Resistance and Moving Forward 

  1. Teri Dawn Heede says:

    Considering what Bart and your “voters” did to the Kupuna Caucus yesterday, I think that this blog is “full of it”. There was every attempt yesterday to save us Kupuna from ourselves and luckily a bunch of young people from your “resistance” were glad to show up and vote….even if they weren’t Kupuna or members of the Kupuna Caucus. I was hoping you could bring unity to the Party and instead….so far, just more discontent and divisiveness.

    • garyhooser says:

      Teri, I encourage you to refrain from making accusations against individuals as it is not helpful to building bridges. Whatever happened or didn’t happen yesterday was not engineered by any single person as far as I know. I was not even aware of what happened until after it concluded. I get far too many FB messages, emails and texts to follow all of the conversations etc. It is my understanding that at the end of the day Alan B. was elected to Chair the Kupuna Caucus and he is certainly a good choice and well qualified. As to who may or may not be members of that particular Caucus, that I believe is established by rules and/or by-laws…and as you know, I certainly don’t make the rules. I believe the intent is to recognize that even young people can be concerned and involved with the issues of the elderly (motivated to take care of their parents etc). If you truly would like to see a ratcheting down of the divisive rhetoric, I encourage you to lead in this area and consider toning down your comments as well. Perhaps if we lead together on this, others will follow?

  2. Dr. Joel Fischer says:

    As a far left Democrat, long-time party official (2 decades as precinct chair, 2 years as Secretary Treasurer of my district, and current secretary of my District), apparent member of the Party establishment AND the progressive wing, I, am shocked by election of a lobbyist for such disreputable organizations to be Chair of our Party.. No matter how great a person our new Chair is (and I have heard from my friends that she IS pretty great), we as Party activists have to hold ourselves to a higher standard than one seen everyday in the petty politics of Hawai`i and the U.S.This we did not do in the election for Chair of our party. It truly is discouraging as well as embarrassing that we cannot uphold in our own elections the very principles upon which our Democratic Party was founded.

  3. David Leopold says:

    With the election of a lobbyist for the agro-chemical industry, the prospect of reducing the consequences of excessive pesticide use in Hawaii will undoubtedly take back burner to other issues. Citizens must watch what happens and resist any changes that further imperil the vulnerable in this State.

  4. Teri Dawn Heede says:

    Asking for a membership list before the election could proceed is not divisive. It is not disruptive. Challenging the vote is a legitimate process. Following Robert’s rules is how we make sure that minority voices are heard. I am being vilified and I don’t like it. It’s basically a LIE….or do Dems call them alternate facts now. I would love to contribute to leading us to unity. I am grassroots…always. We have to educate the membership so that they can participate and be part of the process. We haven’t held that type of training in 2 administrations. Until people know more about the process, nothing is going to be fair, but subject to the interpretation of self professed gurus of the Party. That was another problem last night, lack of knowledge of the process.

  5. David Monk says:

    Having just served as a delegate to the DPH convention and participated in the discussions and votes that determine the party’s policy positions going forward, I’m a little puzzled at the suggestion that the party chair decides what issue the party does or does not advance. It’s the members who volunteer to sit on resolutions committees at the county and state levels, and the general membership at conventions, who set the policy course. Maybe a state chair could try to suppress a vote or discussion with parliamentary maneuvers, but that should just motivate everyone with strong feelings about issues to learn the rules and how to apply them.

  6. Frank DeGiacomo says:

    Yep, the new head of the DPH, combined with a new Senate Ag chair (see: ), combined with a new governor who shall we say, might be especially prone to being “beholden” to corporate interests that provide large donations to her election, and viola! – mass poisoning for dollars comes back with a vengeance. I hope around election time everyone lets parents of kids know who was working overtime to give them brain damage and cancer.

  7. Maren Bonnet says:

    I am one of the so called “youth” that has recently become involved in politics. This gradual path started for me back in 2008 with the election for Obama. My eyes had been opened to possibilities I believed could never happen in my lifetime. I joined the Kupuna Caucus because I love my grandparents, who have since passed. I was fortunate enough to have been raised in their home and attribute the best parts of who I have become, to them. There is much to learn from the “Greatest Generation”. To those members of a Caucus who fear the influx of new membership to the Caucus and the party, I ask, what do you fear? I dare not speak to the intentions of anyone other than myself. I joined the Kupuna Caucus and called in to vote on Sunday, not to vote “against” someone, but to vote for a friend who I believe to be the best qualified for the position and who will uphold the current position of the Kupuna Caucus as taken from their website, “Membership in the Kupuna Caucus is open to registered Democrats and “Democrats at Heart” of any age because we believe that all generations must work together in order to solve the many challenges facing Hawaii and indeed the nation and world.”. If the “youth” or any new members are ostracized for being too young, or too old, or too new, or not experienced enough, how will we ever make progress as a movement, a party, and a society? Inclusion sounds like a nice idea, but it can be unsettling to those that want the safety of what they have always known. As Kalani Souza mentioned in his address to the Democratic Party at the State Convention, the strength of the people lies in the transfer of knowledge between the young and the old, and of course ALOHA!

    • Teri Dawn Heede says:

      Aloha and MAHALO for your recent participation in the Kupuna Caucus. We welcome youthful energy and ideas but, this Caucus should promote Kupuna in positions of leadership. The youthful members should help flesh out our committees with the special skills and passion to help the Kupuna but, this should be about letting us participate at leadership levels. That is not undemocratic. What is undemocratic is to drown out our voices in a process that had been advertised as averting a takeover of the Caucus by “certain” Kupuna. That generated the influx of a lot of new members with “interest” in Kupuna affairs but not exactly Kupuna. What a travesty.

  8. Bob Tellander says:


    You are clear and coherent about the role of representative government, unfortunately in a time where unity does not count except as a block to change, you may find yourself clobbered by those who believe in their issue and not the Common Good.

    You’ve always done the latter. This is not the time to change, but to draw others to that which will be more beneficial to all concerned.

    You do that and the others will be revealed as “special interests.”

    Keep smiling, Bob Tellander

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