State GOP chair candidates focus on party's funding problems

Andria Tupola (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
Andria Tupola (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2016, as the general election loomed, the state Republican Party ran out of cash and had to release its executive director.

"The month before the election, when people had to find poll watchers, they had last-minute questions on how to win the race, there was no one at the headquarters," Rep. Andria Tupola (R) said.

If elected party chair, Tupola promises to help candidates create fund-raising plans.

But priority one will be raising operating funds for the party itself.

"There's no way we can help people if we're financially unsound," she said.

Shirlene Ostrov is also running for party chairperson.

"I believe Hawaii wants a vibrant two-party system," she said.

Ostrov is already knocking on doors, looking for donors.

"We've already approached many businesses, many prominent business men and women who want to bring our party back financially," she said.

In its last report, the state Republican Party said it had only $16,660 on hand. Political analyst Colin Moore says the candidates will face an uphill fight for finances, regardless of who wins.

"You need to show some success, and it's difficult to have any success if you don't have any money," he said.

But the Hawaii GOP's new executive director Jack Jack says the party now has about $88,000 in its bank accounts -- and owns its 2,100 square-foot office space at 725 Kapiolani Boulevard.

"In terms of our financial position, our net worth is a handsome number. It's a good number," he said. "For somebody to draw a picture that we are in financial trouble is incorrect."

As the new House minority leader Tupola is the party's highest-ranking office holder.

"I want to bridge the gap between the party and elected officials, between the party and community members that want to get engaged, and then between the party and younger people that might be interested or need a cause or reason to join," she said.

The deadline to enter the race is Friday. The vote will be on May 13 at the state Republican convention on Kauai.

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