WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - If Georgia can do it, so can Hawaii.
That was the message from former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who visited Hawaii to inspire local Republicans to take over in the heavily Democratic state.
Gingrich was the keynote speaker at the Hawaii GOP's annual Lincoln Day Dinner, which attracted about 500 people who paid at least $150 to be there. Guests included prominent Republicans such as former Gov. Linda Lingle and former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.
But Gingrich was the big draw. He believes that even in a state where Democrats dominate, Republicans can make inroads by talking about freedom to make choices without government intervention.
"Then I think they've got to find ways to deliver services better for less money, and to use new science and new technology so we get better education, better health, better environment, at less cost," Gingrich said.
The Hawaii GOP leadership remains optimistic, even after losing Washington Place and a seat in the U.S. House in the last election. It's hoping that having Gingrich here will rally the local party.
"We're just excited to have him here," said Jonah Ka'auwai, Hawaii Republican Party chairman. "He's just an incredible asset. He has so much history behind him, but just for his wisdom to give to us here in the state of Hawaii and to have him share his time with us, we're very fortunate."
Gingrich himself is considering a run for the White House next year. And he understands that if he runs, his chances are pretty slim here against President Obama.
"He should be popular here," said Gingrich. "He is, in many ways, a favorite son, and people here have to be very proud of him. And I would say that this would be one of the last states to decide not to vote for his re-election. So I'm very conscious of that reality."
So what are the chances for the Republican party in Hawaii? Gingrich pointed to his home state of Georgia for the answer.
"I was in the Georgia Republican Party when it was a lot smaller than the Hawaii Republican Party. And today we have every statewide elected official, starting with the governor," said Gingrich. "We control both the house and senate, we have a majority of the house delegation and both U.S. Senators. So my message is cheerful persistence."
"Knowing that it took him 41 years in order to change Georgia from a Democrat state to a Republican state just last year, we're looking forward to doing whatever it takes to do the same thing here in Hawaii," Ka'auwai said.