Democratic Party of Hawaii

Democratic Party of Hawaii
Chairman Dante Carpenter
Senate leader Shan S. Tsutsui (President)
Brickwood Galuteria (Majority Leader)[1]
House leader Calvin K. Y. Say (Speaker)
Blake Oshiro (Majority Leader)[2]
Founded April 30, 1900
Headquarters 1050 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu,
Ideology American Liberalism
Hawaiian nationalism
Trade unionism
National affiliation Democratic Party
Official colors Blue
Seats in the Upper House
24 / 25
Seats in the Lower House
43 / 51
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Democratic Party of Hawaii is an arm of the Democratic Party of the United States based in Honolulu, Hawaii. The party is a centralized organization established to promote the party platform as drafted in convention biennially. It is also charged with registering voters and delivering voter turnout through county organizations for Hawaii County, Kauaʻi County, Maui County and the City and County of Honolulu. The Hawaii Democratic Party maintained political control of the state government in Hawaii for over forty years, from 1962 to 2002.



A major factor in the party's organization is the ethnicity of Hawaii itself. As Democrats emerged as the dominant political party in 1962, they sought to garner support from native Hawaiians outside the Caucasian demographic. This success is attributed to the efforts of portraying themselves as not belonging to the power elite. For decades, the party had little difficulty in winning local and state-wide elections, with a significant number of Democrats running unopposed in certain years.[3] The party has also established a gender-equality policy that required the election of more women to the state central committee, resulting in an equal balance of men and women in administrative positions.[4]

State level organizational meetings are held at the precinct, district, county, and state level, biennially, during even-numbered years. The party adheres to a complex set of bylaws that addresses eligibility for membership, election of officers, holding conventions, and recruiting delegates to represent the party at conventions.[5] A minimum of two delegates are required from each precinct, with an equal number of men and women, as required by its gender-equality policy.[6] While there is no permanent location for state conventions, nearly all of them have been held on the island of Oahu (the most populated) since 1960.[7]


David Kawānanakoa
John H. Wilson
Charles J. McCarthy

Following the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the Reform Party of Hawaii seized control of government and intended to annex the Hawaii to the United States. But the U.S. had transitioned from an expansionist Republican, President Benjamin Harrison to Democratic President Grover Cleveland who demanded the Kingdom to be restored. After failing to annex Hawaii, the Republic of Hawaii was established and the Reform Party was converted into the American Union Party. Under the Republic, Hawaii became a single-party state by severe restrictions on voting and freedom of expression all opposition parties were driven out of existence. After annexation by Republican President William McKinley the Reformers became affiliated with the Republican Party for their support of Hawaii’s annexation in contrast to the Democrat’s opposition. The American Union Party became the regional Republican Party in Hawaii leaving the Democratic Party for any opposition group.


The Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi was formed on April 30, 1900 by supporters of the queen in the wake of a plague quarantine in Honolulu. The meeting brought together five men: John H. Wilson, son of Marshal of the Kingdom Charles B. Wilson; John S. McGrew, a doctor and supporter of Kalākaua; Charles J. McCarthy, a saloon owner and former Honolulu Rifle; David Kawānanakoa, prince of the House of Kawānanakoa; and Delbert E. Metzger, an engineer from Kaua'i. The group believed that it was necessary for a party in Hawaii, now a region of the US, to have a national counterpart to survive and established the Democratic Party of Hawaii. The intention of the party was to promote Jeffersonian philosophy, home rule, and attempted to appeal as the party of President Cleveland[citation needed]. The first convention of the Democratic Party of Hawaii was held May 16 that year and was attended by 500 people. Later that year, Kawānanakoa attended the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City, becoming the first royal attendee. At the convention Kawānanakoa formed an affiliation between the Democratic Party of Hawaii and the Democratic Party of the United States.

Elections of 1900

Leading up to the elections of 1900 it became apparent the radically nationalist Home Rule Party became the most popular. Republicans who had been rejected for the unpopular overthrow of the monarchy and promotion of white supremacy, offered a coalition between the Democrats and Republicans. Democrats refused the offer and Home Rule Party came to power. But the election of 1900 was based more on animosity toward the Republican Party for dethroning the monarchy than the Home Rule Party’s functionality once in power. Due to the extremism of the Home Rule they were ineffective, similarly the Democrats were also consumed with infighting. The following elections voters perceive little difference between the internal strife of the Democratic Party and the Home Rule Party. Since the 1900 elections Republicans, the only organized party, had formed the Haole-Hawaiian Alliance a deal with former Home Rule members that left the infighting and the Republicans regained power. In the subsequent years Democrats supported the stronger Home Rule Party until it dissolved in 1912. The party managed to elect a mayors like Joseph J. Fern and Wilson and several other positions but maintained a weak reputation throughout the territorial years.[which?] Among the issues was that offices under leadership positions were frequently held by Republicans, despite democrats achieving leadership positions they had limited powers especially against Republican policies.

Territory of Hawaii

After the overthrow of the monarchy and annexation a oligarchy of powerful sugar corporations called the Big Five effectively controlled government in the Hawaiian Islands making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. The oligarchy of Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., Amfac, and Theo H. Davies & Co. worked in favor of the Hawaiʻi Republican Party. The plantations needed labor and the Native Hawaiian population was insufficient to fill the demand so immigrants from around the world such as Puerto Rico, Korea, and most particularly Japan and the Philippines were brought to Hawaii. In response to the flood of immigrants Democrats became more nativist. Democrats like McCarthy and Oren Long pushed a compromised of allowing migrant workers that would eventually return to where they came from rather than establish themselves in Hawaii.

The 1932 Massie-Kahahawai Cases were a seminal event that fortified the political will of territorial citizens against the administration of Republican Governor Lawrence M. Judd, who commuted the sentence of socialite Grace Fortescue, convicted of manslaughter in the death of Joseph Kahahawai to one-hour of exchanging pleasantries in his executive chambers. Democrats were able to used the anti-Republican sentiment to win some seats in the legislature in 1932 and Lincoln McCandless used it to become congressman. But due to continuous infighting Democrats ultimately squandered the anti-Republican momentum.

Burns Machine

Up to the Revolution of 1954, Democrats held a stronger pro-Hawaiian stance, resulting in anti-Asian sentiments based on fears Asian Americans would outperform Hawaiians in education and job performance. Up to World War II, half of elected Democrats were Hawaiian while only a quarter were Caucasian. Following World War II, a local movement to empower laborers in Hawaii was formed. Honolulu Police Department officer John A. Burns began organizing the plantation laborers, especially the Japanese Americans and Filipino Americans he came to know while on his police beats. He began what would be known as the "Burns Machine". He believed grassroots organizing and the power of elections could overturn the corruption and unfairness of the Republicans in power. The movement received its biggest boost when Burns successfully influenced Japanese American veterans who fought in World War II to become involved, notably incumbent Daniel Inouye. The coalition was composed of the Democratic Party, Communist Party, 442nd Infantry Regiment, ILWU, and other organizations. During the Burns movement, the party shifted towards egalitarianism, allowing an untapped Japanese voter base to bring them to power. Burns' efforts culminated in his election to the governorship after attaining statehood, heralding a forty year era of Democratic rule in Hawaiʻi.

Political positions


The Democratic Party has tended to hold a position on social issues based on how a issue would affects bystanders and/or the environment. The party's platform is based on the values of liberty and social justice, with compassion and respect towards the individual.[8] In 1997 the reciprocal beneficiary registration gave recognition to same-sex couples.[8] In 1970 Democratic Governor John A. Burns legalized abortion in Hawaii. But this position has also lead to restrictions.[9] In 2006 strict smoking bans were put in place based on the effects of secondhand smoke on bystanders[10]. Since the Revolution of 1954, the Democratic Party of Hawaii has been considered progressive in its center-left ideologies. The party has promoted racial tolerance, multiculturalism, and protection of minorities.


Hawaiian nationalism has been one of the Democratic Party’s founding principles. Democratic Party, in part, was founded on bringing Hawaiian representation to government. The Democrats advocated for the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. During the Revolution of 1954 and rising to power Democrats had shifted toward racial equality and left-wing nationalism, while marginalizing the nationalist right especially over Anti-Japanese sentiment and racism. Under left-wing nationalism, the Democratic Party has focused on preserving Hawaiian culture and traditions while tolerating and recognizing those of other groups in Hawaii. The Democratic Party has also focused on preserving Hawaii’s individuality from “Mainlandization”. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) was formed during the 1978 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention. Part Hawaiian Senator Daniel Akaka proposed the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act (Akaka Bill) to create a native government. Right-wing nationalists have accused the Democrats of being too mild.

Trade unionism

The Democratic Party has asserted itself as Hawaii’s labor party since gaining support from unions and plantation workers in the 1950s. The party has supported workers rights and collective bargaining. Opposition has come from employers and small business owners who feel their rights have been neglected because of the emphasis on employee protection and rights.

Other issues


The Democrats prefer increased regulation of big companies because of the relatively small marketplace in Hawaii and past experiences with monopolies and oligopolies. Such as the Big Five employer monopoly on the job market. The shipping and airline industries in particular are targeted for regulation. The Democrats tend to be closely involved with the tourism industry. The party believes in the simplification of government processes on the local and state level, with integration of databases to promote efficiency in these areas.[8]


The Democracy Party has favored conservation efforts such as wildlife sanctuaries and reserves. Pollution reduction initiatives have received bipartisan support in Hawaii. The reduction of one's carbon footprint in reflected in the party's encouragement of using clean energy sources, also with environmentally friendly modes of transportation.[8]

Health care

The party platform supports a public health care system with development long-term financing solutions for individual care. The party has expressed support towards single payer universal health care coverage with the inclusion of a public option in this plan. The party does not support the denial of coverage towards women for abortion services.[8] Democrats have been involved with healthcare issues and supportive of non-profit healthcare providers. They are also responsible for the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act.


Religion in the Democratic Party varies among individuals. In an anti-communist speech, Governor Ingram Stainback warned that communist influence would threaten to "take the Christian religion out of public schools." Governor John A. Burns, a devout Roman Catholic, allowed Hawaii to become the first state to legalize abortion. He put his religions views aside when he decided not to veto the bill.[9]

Current elected officials

The following is a list of Democrats who hold elected federal and statewide offices in Hawaii as of 2011:

Members of Congress

U.S. Senate

Democrats have held both of Hawaii's seats in the U.S. Senate continuously since 1977.

  • Class I: Daniel Akaka (Junior Senator)
  • Class III: Daniel Inouye (Senior Senator; President pro tempore of the United States Senate)

U.S. House of Representatives

Democrats hold both of the seats Hawaii is apportioned in the U.S. House following the 2000 census.

Statewide offices


  1. ^ Hawaii State Legislature (2011). "Senate Leadership". Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  2. ^ Hawaii State Legislature (2011). "House Leadership". Retrieved 2011-10-26. 
  3. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 74)
  4. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 75)
  5. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 77)
  6. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 77)
  7. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 78)
  8. ^ a b c d e Democratic Party of Hawaii (2010), 2010 Platform,, retrieved 2011-11-13 
  9. ^ a b Gordon, Mike (July 2, 2006), "John A. Burns", Honolulu Advertiser (Gannett),, retrieved 2011-11-13 
  10. ^ Hawaii State Department of Health, Hawaii's Smoke-Free Law,, retrieved 2011-11-13 


  • Appleton, Andrew M.; Ward, Daniel S. (1997), State Party Profiles: A 50-State Guide to Development, Organization, and Resources, Congressional Quarterly, pp. 73–82, ISBN 9781568021508 

See also

External links

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