Shortly before he was elected as the Republican Party's Oahu County Chair, Brett Kulbis urged fellow Republicans to rebuild the local GOP.
"Today, you have a chance to change the status quo ...and making our party great again," he said, borrowing a phrase from President Donald Trump. "Over they years, we have forsaken our county grassroots and have moved to an oligarchy, a small selected group of insiders who make the decisions for the rest of us."
He assumes the helm after former House Minority Leader Rep. Beth Fukumoto switched to the Democratic Party last week, with this parting complaint: "Primarily racist elements that are driving the party much further right than I'd like to see, more than that though is there is a refusal to allow any opposition to that," Fukumoto said.
Former Republican Congresswoman and GOP Chair said Fukumoto will be missed but said her comments last week were unfair.
"I am very sorry that she used the term that we are sexist and racists. I think those are poor choices she accused us of which are not true," Saiki said.
Saiki said the party's new leadership has a lot of ground to make up. Republicans only have five members in the 51-member House and none in the state Senate.
"We've got to have candidates to win seats in the House of Representatives and you know we have no one in the Senate," she said.
Added University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore: "I think there's plenty of room for a change here because they really have hit rock bottom with only five elected members," said Moore.
Rep. Andria Tupola, who replaced Fukumoto as House Minority Leader, said she hopes the party will now seek to broaden its base.
"As Republicans we're missing a huge gap. One is people around my age -- millennials -- getting younger people involved," she said. "And two, is being more relevant with local issue. I mean if our candidates and our party can be more relevant in things that happen in Hawaii then we can really start making a difference."
Tupola and retired U.S. Air Force officer Shirlene De la Cruz Ostrov are competing for the chairmanship of the state GOP at its annual meeting in May.
"I would like the see the party speak up against issues that affect us every day like soaring taxes (and) increasing regulations on small businesses," Ostrov said.