State Rep. Andria Tupola on Monday confirmed her intent to run for chair of the Republican Party in Hawaii, setting up a showdown for the seat Republicans hope will help resuscitate the party before the 2018 mid-term elections.
Tupola, who represents Nanakuli, Lualualei and Maili, is the House Minority Leader, the highest ranking Republican in Hawaii politics. It's rare, however, for a sitting politician to also serve as party chair, the seat which Tupola is seeking.
"Our party has never been candidate centric," said Rep. Tupola. "My vision is to build a candidate centric party where we build a mentorship for these candidates. We are helping them and making sure they have enough funding."
While registered Republicans in Hawaii grew by more than 30 percent during the 2016 campaign year, the party lost its lone state senator during the election that saw Donald Trump elected president.
The state house, meanwhile, has only five Republican members.
Shirlene Ostrov, a businesswoman who ran unsuccessfully against Colleen Hanabusa for U.S. Congress, is also running for the leadearship position. Ostrov says Tupola already has her hands full, and that the chair of the GOP -- which is a volunteer position -- needs to make a full-time commitment toward building the party.
"It's a reasonable expectation to have a full-time party chairman, to focus on the issues, to build up our party," said Ostrov. "To not only support our caucus, but to support candidates and attract future candidates."
Tupola says she can effectively do both jobs.
"I feel that as a legislator, we have really good insight on policy, as well as how to look for candidates and help them win," said Tupola.
Current GOP chair Fritz Rohlfing believes Tupola could do both jobs. He's called Tupola a 'rising star' because she's a proven winner.
"We really do need to rebuild the party and the last two years, I've been rebuilding it, but we need to go further," said Rohlfing.
Party members seem to agree that the GOP needs to do better at reaching minorities, young people and neighborhoods outside of typical Republican strongholds.
"Our cultures are conservative by nature. And I know that conservative nature translates into political effort if properly engaged in the community," said Ostrov.