Democratic Party of Hawaii

The Democratic Party of Hawaii is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the state of 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.

Democratic Party of Hawaii
ChairpersonKate Stanley
Governor of HawaiiDavid Ige
Lieutenant Governor of HawaiiJosh Green
Senate PresidentRon Kouchi
House SpeakerScott Saiki
FoundedApril 30, 1900
Social liberalism
Political positionCenter-left
National affiliationDemocratic Party
Colors     Blue
State House
46 / 51
State Senate
24 / 25
Statewide Executive Offices
2 / 2
U.S. House of Representatives
2 / 2
U.S. Senate
2 / 2


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 and other non-whites. 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 statewide elections, with a significant number of Democrats running unopposed in certain years.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[4]

The party is governed by a Chair and the State Central Committee. That committee is composed of representatives from each senatorial district, as well as representatives from each county, for each caucuses and the Young Democrats of Hawaii. Gender equality policies require the State Central Committee to be split equally between male and female representatives.[5]

Due to the extreme geographical distance from the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C., the party is relatively independent in its affairs. As a result, the national party does not typically inquire contributions for fund-raising purposes. Due to the party's dominant status in the state, there is some over-representation at national party conventions, in comparison to the population of Hawaii itself. Despite certain advantages, the party remains somewhat isolated on the national level.[6]


David Kawānanakoa
John H. Wilson (vol. 2, 1921)
John H. Wilson
Charles J. McCarthy (vol. 2, 1921)
Charles J. McCarthy


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 Evener 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 and home rule. Following the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the Reform Party of Hawaii seized control of government and intended to annex Hawaii to the United States. The reformers became affiliated with the Republican Party for this support of Hawaii's annexation in contrast to the Democrats' opposition. The American Union Party became the regional Republican party in Hawaii, leaving the Democratic Party for any opposition group. The first convention of the Democratic Party of Hawaii was held on 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 election 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.[7] Due to the extremism of the Home Rule, they were ineffective. Similarly, the Democrats were also consumed with infighting. In the following elections, voters perceived little difference between the internal strife of the Democratic Party and the Home Rule Party. Since the 1900 election, Republicans had formed the Haole-Hawaiian Alliance. This deal with made with former Home Rule members who left the infighting. The Republicans then regained power. In the subsequent years, Democrats supported the stronger Home Rule Party until it dissolved in 1912. The party managed to elect Democrats Joseph J. Fern and Wilson as mayors of Honolulu, along with several other positions, but maintained a weak reputation throughout the territorial years. Among the issues was that offices under leadership positions were frequently held by Republicans, with Democrats achieving leadership positions they only brought limited powers, especially against Republican policies.

Territory of Hawaii

After the overthrow of the monarchy and annexation, an oligarchy of powerful sugar corporations called the Big Five effectively controlled government in the Hawaiian Islands, making hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.[7] 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. 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 compromise of allowing migrant workers that would eventually return to where they came from rather than establish themselves in Hawaii.

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.[8] He began what would be known as the "Burns Machine". He believed grassroots organizing and the power of elections could overturn the corruption 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.[8] 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 Hawaiʻ.[8]


Party standing in the U.S. Congress was strengthened once Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959. For the first time, political representation was fully justified as newly elected representatives were allowed to cast votes. The achievement of statehood had also significantly enhanced the party's status within national party organizations.[9] Democrats have held onto a solid majority since 1962, with near-complete control over the state's congressional delegation and its legislative and executive branch. At the national level, Democrats held all of Hawaii's seats in the Senate and the House. Both positions of governor and lieutenant governor were also filled by Democrats, with the former being held by John Burns, the organizer of the Burns Machine in 1954. Burns was instrumental in the revitalization of the party following World War II. He was reelected two more times and died shortly after his third term in office in 1975.[9]

Factionalism within the party was a problem in the late 1960s, as a newer progressive wing (led by Tom Gill) began to challenge the older wing headed by incumbent governor Burns. This division in the party reached a high point in 1970, when Gill challenged Burns for the next gubernatorial term. As a supporter of environmental protection, consumer protection and other progressive causes, Gill lost the primary election to Burns. While factional struggles continued into the 1970s, the Burns regime remained in power.[10] The strength of the Burns Machine has diminished since the mid-1980s, primarily due to the advanced ages of its original supporters. There has been renewed strength in the progressive wing. Since 1994, progressive supporters have held control over the party central committee, having run unopposed in certain years.[10]

The party has remained successful due to its heavy usage of the media, relying on grassroots activities. Campaign tactics and promotion of party ideals have been characterized by rice dinners, rallies, door-to-door campaigning, and sign waving in public areas. These activities have helped maintain the party's large membership and its status as the majority party of Hawaii.[11]

Political positions


The Democratic Party has tended to hold a position on social issues based on how an 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.[12] In 1997 the reciprocal beneficiary registration gave recognition to same-sex couples.[12] In 1970 Democratic Governor John A. Burns legalized abortion in Hawaii. But this position has also led to restrictions.[13] In 2006 strict smoking bans were put in place based on the effects of secondhand smoke on bystanders.[14] 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.

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.


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.[12]


The Democratic 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 is reflected in the party's encouragement of using clean energy sources, also with environmentally friendly modes of transportation.[12]


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.[12] 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. Governor John A. Burns, a devout Roman Catholic, allowed Hawaii to become the first state to legalize abortion. He put his religious views aside when he decided not to veto the bill.[13]

Current elected officials

The following is a list of Democrats who hold elected federal and statewide offices in Hawaii in 2013:

Members of Congress

U.S. Senate

Democrats have controlled both of Hawaii's seats in the U.S. Senate since 1976.

  • Class I: Mazie Hirono (Junior Senator)
    Mazie Hirono, official portrait, 113th Congress
    Junior Senator Hirono
  • Class III: Brian Schatz (Senior Senator)
    Brian Schatz, official portrait, 113th Congress 2
    Senior Senator Schatz
Mazie Hirono, official portrait, 113th Congress
Junior Senator Hirono
Brian Schatz, official portrait, 113th Congress 2
Senior Senator Schatz

U.S. House of Representatives

Out of the 2 seats Hawaii is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives, both are held by Democrats:

Statewide offices

Democrats control both of the elected statewide offices:

State legislative leaders

See also


  1. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 74)
  2. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 75)
  3. ^ a b (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 77)
  4. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 78)
  5. ^ "2014 STATE CENTRAL COMMITTEE NOMINATION FORM" (PDF). Democratic Party of Hawaii. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015.
  6. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 78)
  7. ^ a b (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 73)
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ a b (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 74)
  10. ^ a b (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 75)
  11. ^ (Appleton & Ward 1997, p. 76)
  12. ^ a b c d e Democratic Party of Hawaii (2010), 2010 Platform, retrieved 2011-11-13
  13. ^ a b Gordon, Mike (July 2, 2006), "John A. Burns", Honolulu Advertiser, Gannett, retrieved 2011-11-13
  14. ^ 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 978-1-56802-150-8

External links

2006 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 2006 Hawaii gubernatorial election was held on November 7, 2006. Incumbent Linda Lingle was the first Republican elected governor of Hawaii since 1962. Although 2006 was a strong election year for Democrats, Lingle won re-election by a landslide owing to an economic rebound in the state that occurred during her tenure after tremulous decade for the state economy during the '90s and early 2000s. As of 2019, this is the most recent election in which a Republican was elected Governor of Hawaii, or won any statewide race for that matter.

2008 Hawaii Democratic caucuses

The 2008 Hawaii Democratic Presidential Caucuses took place on February 19, 2008, with 20 pledged delegates at stake. The winner in each of Hawaii's two congressional districts was awarded all of that district's delegates, totaling 13. Another seven delegates were awarded to both candidates at the Hawaii Democratic Party State Convention on May 23–25, 2008. These 20 delegates represented Hawaii at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Nine other unpledged delegates, known as superdelegates, also attended the convention and cast their votes as well.

Brian Schatz

Brian Emanuel Schatz (; born October 20, 1972) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Hawaii, a seat he has held since 2012. Schatz was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie to replace Senator Daniel Inouye after his death.

Schatz served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006, where he represented the 25th Legislative District and was chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from 2008 to 2010. He also worked as chief executive officer of Helping Hands Hawaii, an Oahu nonprofit social service agency, until he resigned to run for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in the 2010 gubernatorial election as the running mate of Neil Abercrombie. He served as lieutenant governor until December 26, 2012, when Abercrombie appointed Schatz to serve out the rest of Daniel Inouye's U.S. Senate term after his death. Upon his swearing-in, Schatz was the youngest U.S. Senator in the 112th Congress. Schatz won the 2014 special election to complete the remainder of Inouye's Senate term, and was reelected in 2016 for a full six-year term, defeating Republican John Carroll.

Brickwood Galuteria

Brickwood M. Galuteria (born 1955 in Honolulu, Hawaii), was the Hawaii State Senator representing District 12, encompassing the communities of Waikiki, Ala Moana, Kaka'ako, and portions of McCully-Mo'ili'ili. He was elected to office in the 2008 general election. Upon his swearing-in he was assigned to serve on the following four major committees: Ways & Means (WAM), Education & Housing (EDH), Public Safety and Military Affairs (PSM), and named Vice-Chair of the Committee on Tourism (TSM)

He previously served as state chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii (2004–2006).

Chuck Mau

Chuck Mau (born January 10, 1907) was a Chinese-American politician, former chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, and first Asian American in Hawaii to become Deputy Attorney General. He was the first American judge of full Chinese ancestry to be appointed by a President.

Curtis P. Iaukea

Colonel Curtis Piʻehu Iʻaukea (December 13, 1855 – March 5, 1940) served as a court official, army officer and diplomat of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He later became an influential official for the subsequent regimes of the Provisional Government and the Republic and the Territory of Hawaii.

Iaukea was raised from an early age to serve the Hawaiian royal family. He first gained prominence during the reign of King Kalākaua when he served as an important court official and an army officer in the volunteer army of the Kingdom of Hawaii. He held numerous significant positions including governor of Oahu and chamberlain to the Royal Household. He also served as Hawaii's ambassador to Europe and Asia, attending the coronation of Tsar Alexander III of Russia and the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Iaukea received numerous Hawaiian honors and foreign decorations during his service to the kingdom. Following the overthrow of the monarchy, he continued to work for the subsequent regimes of the Provisional Government and the Republic of Hawaii. He served as an officer on the military staff of President Sanford B. Dole and represented the Republic at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

After Hawaii's annexation to the United States, he became a member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and served in many official positions in the newly created Territory of Hawaii including sheriff of Honolulu County, senator of the Third District, secretary of Hawaii, and acting governor of Hawaii. As one of the last surviving representatives of the Hawaiian royal court, he served as business manager and private secretary to the deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani until her death in 1917.

Emma Nāwahī

Emma ʻAʻima Aʻii Nāwahī (September 28, 1854 – December 28, 1935) was a Native Hawaiian political activist, community leader and newspaper publisher. She and her husband Joseph Nāwahī were leaders in the opposition to the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and they co-founded Ke Aloha Aina, a Hawaiian language newspaper, which served as an important voice in the resistance to the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. After annexation, she helped established the Democratic Party of Hawaii and became a supporter of the women's suffrage movement.

George Ariyoshi

George Ariyoshi, born as Ryoichi Ariyoshi (有吉 良一, Ariyoshi Ryoichi, born March 12, 1926), is an American lawyer and politician who served as the third governor of Hawaii from 1974 to 1986. A Democrat, he is Hawaii's longest-serving governor and the first American of Asian descent to serve as governor of a U.S. state. He assumed gubernatorial powers and duties when Governor John A. Burns was declared incapacitated in October 1973 and was elected in 1974 (assuming governorship December 1974), becoming the first Asian-American to be elected governor of a U.S. state or territory. His lengthy tenure is a record likely to remain unbroken due to term limits enacted after he left office. Ariyoshi is now considered an elder statesman of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi.

Governor of Hawaii

The Governor of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Ke Kiaʻaina o Hawaiʻi) is the chief executive of the state of Hawaii and its various agencies and departments, as provided in the Hawaii State Constitution Article V, Sections 1 through 6. It is a directly elected position, votes being cast by popular suffrage of residents of the state. The governor is responsible for enforcing laws passed by the Hawaii State Legislature and upholding rulings of the Hawaii State Judiciary. The role includes being commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Hawaii and having the power to use those forces to execute laws, suppress insurrection and violence and repel invasion. The Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii becomes acting governor upon the officeholder's absence from the state or if the person is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office. Historically, the Governor of Hawaii has been from either the Democratic Party of Hawaii or Hawaii Republican Party.

The current Governor of Hawaii is Democrat David Ige, who assumed the position on December 1, 2014. Hawaii was the first U.S. state to have an Asian American chief executive; George Ariyoshi served three terms between 1974 and 1986. The state currently has had three Asian American, one Native Hawaiian, as well as four white people holding the governorship.

Green Party of Hawaii

The Green Party of Hawai'i (GPH) is the green party organization in the state of Hawaii, and an affiliate organization of the Green Party of the United States.

The party's focus includes environmental issues, community-based economics, personal responsibility, diversity, social justice, and non-violence.

Hawaii Democratic Revolution of 1954

The Hawaii Democratic Revolution of 1954 was a nonviolent revolution that took place in the Hawaiian Archipelago consisting of general strikes, protests, and other acts of civil disobedience. The Revolution culminated in the territorial elections of 1954 where the long reign of the Hawaii Republican Party in the legislature came to an abrupt end, as they were voted out of the office to be replaced by members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. The strikes by the Isles' labor workers demanded similar pay and benefits to their Mainland counterparts. The strikes also crippled the power of the sugarcane plantations and the Big Five Oligopoly over their workers.

John Dominis Holt II

Colonel John Dominis Kauikeaouli Holt II (March 17, 1861 – December 23, 1916) was an official holding the rank of major and colonel during the Kingdom of Hawaii. After the American annexation of Hawaii, he became an early member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

John H. Wilson (Hawaii politician)

John Henry Wilson (December 15, 1871 – July 3, 1956), was a civil engineer, insurgent, co-founder of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, and Mayor of Honolulu, Hawaii three times: from 1920 to 1927, from 1929 to 1931, and from 1946 to 1954.

Keali'i Lopez

Keali'i Lopez is an activist and lobbyist who served as the chairperson of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from May 2018 until her resignation in August 2019. She was appointed director of Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs on December 4, 2010, and her term ended on December 1, 2014. Prior to that, she was an executive at a Hawaii nonprofit that ran several public-access television channels. She received a bachelor's degree in communications at University of Hawaii at Manoa.On August 6, 2019, Lopez announced that she had accepted a nonpartisan position at the state offices of the AARP, forcing her to resign her position as Democratic Party chairperson mid-way through her two-year term.

List of state parties of the Democratic Party (United States)

This is a list of official state and territorial party organizations of the United States Democratic Party.

Lucius E. Pinkham

Lucius Eugene Pinkham (September 19, 1850 – November 2, 1922) was the fourth Territorial Governor of Hawaii, serving from 1913 to 1918. Pinkham was the first member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii to become governor.

Oren E. Long

Oren Ethelbirt Long (March 4, 1889 – May 6, 1965) was an American politician who served as the tenth Territorial Governor of Hawaii from 1951 to 1953. A member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, Long was appointed to the office after the term of Ingram Stainback. After statehood was achieved he served in the United States Senate, one of the first two, along with Hiram Fong, to represent Hawaii in that body. Long was the only non-Asian American U.S. Senator from Hawaii until the appointment of Brian Schatz to the position in 2012.

Politics of Hawaii

This only covers the history of the politics of the State of Hawaii. For information on the political history of the previous two forms of government, see Territory of Hawaii - Organic Act and Kingdom of Hawaii - Government.

The politics the U.S. state of Hawaii take place within the framework of a Democrat-dominated government.

William S. Richardson

William Shaw Richardson (December 22, 1919 – June 21, 2010) was an American attorney, political figure, and chief justice of the Hawaii State Supreme Court from 1966 to 1982. Prior to his service as the top jurist in Hawaii, Richardson was lieutenant governor under John A. Burns. Previous to that tenure from 1956 to 1962 he was chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.

U.S. House
U.S. Senate
Chairs of
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State and
Political parties of Hawaii
Former 1900s
Former 1800s

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