HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - At festivities across the state Tuesday, many gathered to honor Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole ― known as the “people’s prince” ― on the holiday named after him.
The Republican Party of Hawaii sought to honor him, too ― with a rebranding campaign.
Party officials say they’re looking to rebrand the party in Hawaii as the “Party of Kuhio,” and call themselves “Kuhio Republicans,” much like Republicans nationally call themselves the “Party of Lincoln.”
“It’s not a name change. We are actually celebrating Kuhio Day every day since Prince Kuhio was a Republican congressman for almost 20 years, 10 terms in congress,” said Shirlene Ostrov, chairwoman of the Republican Party of Hawaii.
The effort comes as Republicans in Hawaii struggle to retain a foothold in Hawaii politics. The Hawaii GOP has struggled for years to get Republicans elected, and the divisive political battles nationally haven’t helped.
“In any state, it’s really hard to sell a divisive national scene for both parties," Ostrov said.
“What we want to do is focus on our islands and to our voters that we are different than that noisy national scene.”
Prince Kuhio is revered for winning passage of the Native Hawaiian Homes Act in 1921, which provides homesteads for Native Hawaiians.
Andria Tupola, a former state representative and Republican candidate for Governor, says Prince Kuhio’s values resonate with many people.
“Almost 100 years later, we are taking and gleaning his insight in trying to implement it so we can make a better Hawaii,” said Tupola.
She believes the local Republican party has struggled because of leadership changes and a lack of a unifying message.
“I’ve never really known what the message of the party was,” she said.
Tupola added, “It’s the first time I’ve heard a concerted effort to have one message, one brand to rally ourselves to get some unity within the party."