What Happened?

Congratulations and thank you to Aiona, Finnegan, Djou, our candidates, their families, teams and supporters.  Campaigns are fun, serious, work.  We’re supposed to learn from a loss but then we’d be pretty smart by now.

This is the state/local portion of the election report. National was rushed out yesterday. Several folks sent me highlights from their races, strengths and weaknesses of HRP and campaigns. Next up is What We Learned. Feel free to send me your lessons or be subject to my sole subjectivity. Previous reports are listed at the bottom.

For everything fun in yesterday’s national report, this isn’t. When the top-of-ticket goes -17, things go wrong. When HRP monies are spent on staff and BBQs and then focused only on top-of-ticket races, things go south. When 30% of your candidates don’t campaign, when you can’t attract outside help, when you can’t raise money and attract volunteers, then it’s not good.

HRP (Kaauwai and Vice for Recruitment Finnegan) recruited a lot of candidates. Djou kept things interesting. We won big on a neighbor island. Some candidates ran good races.

The campaign rhetoric is still coming out. Stop. They won. We lost. Suck it up just as we expect Pelosi and Obama to suck it up. We got whooped.

Voter turnout. Close to a normal 56% for Hawaii. 1.3M residents, 691k registered, 359k voted so approx 25% of the people decide our direction. When winners receive half their district votes, it means that 13% of the residents decided the election for the rest of us. 39% AB is the last I heard, up from 38%, less than usual jump. With the turnout being the same as usual and Aiona/F losing by 17 points, then either the D surge was off-set by the religious right not voting, or the religious right surged….for Abercrombie/S. ED Nonaka said “Republicans didn’t come out and vote.” That’s a democrat statement. Take responsibility. We failed to get out our vote.

Everyone needs to do their job. Maui County raised >$15k for candidates. HRP Exec cmte is non-existent. Exec cmte has not met quorum in monthly meetings since June 2009 and at least three meetings have been canceled for lack of attendance even by concall. HRP couldn’t net $100k at Lingle’s farewell Governor’s Ball. HRP has never met quorum for a state cmte meeting. Honolulu County failed to organize, failed to raise funds and failed to motivate. Has Gray had even one county meeting? Kauai HD candidates averaged fewer than 20% of vote. There’s more, of course. Before you fire back, accept the challenge I levy to everyone who bitches – become party chair, serve as vice-chair, do something as county chair, organize a district, whatever, do your part. I know it is tough. Been there. We need to do better. We got outworked.

Candidates. Religious right, not one won. New HRP recruits, not one won. Hope to see the good one’s in ’12.

Too much whining about outside money and negative campaigning. What did you expect? A congressional seat and the mansion were up for grabs. Of course, there’s outside money. Man up.

You see where this report is going?

HRP didn’t adjust to disappearing revenues. Fund raising is not a priority for Kaauwai and he spends unnecessarily. After three years of not personally assisting, Lingle stepped back in but it was too little, too late. Finnegan and Kaauwai knew this going in and still presented an unrealistic, robust budget which they couldn’t attain. I agree with Constitutional lawyer Bopp’s lawsuit for A1A Electrician. Unfortunately, in Hawaii it means a lot more money going to Ds.

Down-ticket effect.  When Aiona is -17 it is going to hurt our races.  HRP didn’t compensate.  One commercial, $80-90k, would fund a package of pieces to support four house races.  HRP caught so much crap when we lost with McCain ’08 coming in at -50.  I thought it immature for leadership to not acknowledge that we could have lost it all with Obama at the top of their ticket.  We didn’t.  Down -17 isn’t the same but we should recognize that it could be worse.

Staff. Two young operatives were brought in from the mainland last cycle. They did well and then got run out by the Ohana crew. One of them just won the NM Martinez gov primary as campaign manager and then won the governorship as political director. The other, as finance director w/ OR Dudley, lost in a close gov race. She raised $10.2M. I am proud of them. It is unfortunate we don’t recognize and keep talent. This year’s crew lost the gov race, HI-1, a senate seat, had trouble connecting with donors and failed to GOTV. What now?

Our races.

HRP predicted HI-1, 4 Senate, 10 House (for 13 total) with a shot at gov and 8 more house races. They said they had polling to back it up. My prediction (guess) 1 Senate, 4 House and I caught heck for being “such a pessimist.” Actual: No gov, no CD, 1 senate, 5 house. Reality.

There are hundreds of reasons candidates win or lose. It is never ONE reason but we have to learn.

Aiona/F.  It is hard to explain 17 points.  Period.  When he and his family get a week’s rest, I hope they raise it to the Lord, seriously, and consider taking back the fifth floor in ’12.  Some observations:  A liberal Lingle attracts Ds and can persuade liberal and moderate Rs. Aiona can’t but he attracted the religious right and some conservatives who left when Lingle took the party. He took a year to commit to run. He doesn’t like raising funds; he doesn’t like leading the party. Aiona spent more than he raised from Jun ’09-Jun ’10. RGA played early saving him a lot of money though neither RGA commercial defined Abercrombie. Aiona said he organized a grassroots effort. You just cannot afford to spend three years building your grassroots that gets beat in 50 of 51 districts. After the stink we spoke of Iwase ’06, that’s only one district less than Iwase lost. I was confused when RNC (on Hellriech’s urging) and HRP (Kaauwai and Council Chipchase) aggressively testified in the D lawsuit to keep Abercrombie from moving Fed money to his state account for the primary against Hannemann. When Aiona’s campaign and HRP then suggested to supporters to cross-ballot vote against Hannemann it made sense but contradicted the earlier court action. What were they thinking? Aiona should have known from pollster Tarrance Group that Abercrombie had double digits on Hannemann. Down double digits, Aiona needed RGA or Christian Coalition to hit the day Abercrombie won the primary. Aiona and RGA never defined Abercrombie. Conversely, Abercrombie and Kaauwai’s letter to pastors defined Aiona. The religious right is a valuable coalition with Rs but Kaauwai put it in charge of our message. HRP should have tested the religious/ righteousness/HB444 message, though Oshiro’s primary dismantling of Okino should have been an indicator. As the campaign progressed, Aiona appeared to close to -5 points. Then, “Transformation” played into the fear that Aiona was ONLY religious. Anyone think that Daily Kos and Ian Lind posted that at a random time? AB had just hit households, walk in was beginning. Had Aiona not brought attention to the video with his press conference, it would probably have died. Aiona never brought up Abercrombie’s socialists associations or ‘real’ relationship with the military. Christian Coalition tried to do so after the final debate as did a Hilo letter-to-the-editor the final weekend. Aiona’s volunteers were committed with fervor, especially the religious right. Abercrombie made mistakes but ran a very good, deceiving, campaign. His week off after the primary was puzzling until I heard that his internals were accurately portraying his +20 lead. When the polls closed to 5 points, DGA had to spend money where they shouldn’t have had to spend money. He didn’t engage Hannemann until late. He waited until after the final debate to ask Aiona to choose “to take responsibility for the condition of the state OR admit you haven’t done anything the past eight years.” Abercrombie raised a lot more money in six months than Aiona raised in three years. Some of this explanation is lame because, well, 17 points is hard to explain. “Republicans didn’t come out and vote.”

Djou. Djou is a different situation. Remember that Djou was never supposed to win. Ever. He positioned himself through force of will, his and Stacey’s, and by announcing a full year before the election cycle.   He took too casually raising funds in the first year. He should have brought in an experienced finance director. He held his own with an exceptional fundraiser (disclosure, you know) but needed more. HRP had no idea how to interact with a congressional campaign or a congressman. You could tell the messaging was off when HRP immediately declared Abercrombie’s congressional resignation as heinous during the same news cycle as Djou declared it as the best possible scenario. The next year he was advised to bring in a campaign manager with congressional challenger experience.   Nonaka tried to be council office manager by day, campaign manager by night but he had never run even a state house campaign. Djou had no one on his campaign who had ever participated in a congressional race. Nonaka got paid a lot for duties beyond his capabilities. HI-1 is much bigger than a large city council race. Things broke right in the Special with Ds squabbling. Djou won but Nonaka left the campaign in shambles. No one in this business willingly leaves a congressional campaign with an election coming in five months, especially not to go to a party “staff job.” Campaign managers just don’t do that. Case dropped after the primary in a magnanimous, self-serving gesture. Djou’s performance in Congress was expectedly professional for an even-less-time-to-prepare-than-a-freshman freshman. The DADT vote didn’t settle well with conservatives and blogs were lit up with bewildered supporters who had never asked his positions. Hanabusa’s absolutely terrible campaigning kept Djou in the hunt. Djou ran the general without a campaign manager, a finance director who had never done a political campaign and without a general consultant but his media consultant is good. Remember, Djou was never supposed to be close and he still gave us the most exciting race since Lingle ’02. Djou ran well enough to cause the DCCC to dump $1M+ in HI-1 instead of elsewhere. Djou got attacked late by pro-United States (anti-Akaka) conservatives and misread the scope of the threat. Djou needed to be more aggressive with fundraising, campaign organization and voter ID in the 18-24 months before the election cycle. Djou stayed in there until the final weekend. This was a gutsy effort.

http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/252488/finally-they-tossed-out-classy-polite-dignified-incumbent We’ll be fortunate if he again runs for us.

Cavasso and Willoughby were defeated. Their vote percentages concern me. I appreciate both for stepping forward. I am told that several groups are exploring the possibility of a Willoughby ’12 run.

Congratulations to S8 Slom, H27 Ching and H43 Pine.  Our incumbents came through with minimal HRP assistance and they each assisted other candidates.  Congratulations to H11 Fontaine, H32 Johanson and H46 Riviere.  Several races were good and the candidates must come back.  If I name them, I will leave someone out but I will mention H28 Chang and H18 Baron because they accomplished everything required to win.  We have to see them in ’12.  H17 Ward, H19 Marumoto and H50 Thielen had the best type of general election.

Fontaine ran against an opponent we hit continuously since ’07. This was Fontaine’s second go. Johanson has experience at every level of government along with state house and state party campaigning in running for an open R seat. Riviere ran for an open seat on his second attempt. The trend we see is experience and open seat/flawed opponent.

HRP ’08 Chairman (me) didn’t recruit enough candidates. After we lost in ‘02, ’04 and ’06, I intended to recruit as many credible candidates as possible. I did so but it was way too few. Kaauwai went to the old model and recruited anyone, many from the religious right. Again, we got whacked. Not one new HRP recruited candidate won. Not one religious right candidate won, including Aiona, though Johanson was supported by the religious right. Down-ticket effect, spreading out the D outside money, holding D candidates to their races works only if we have strong candidates running a lot of races.

Everyone take notice of Maui? The bastion. Mayor Arakawa “thumped” Tavares 57-40, Council Couch “thrashed” Nishiki and Fontaine beat the low-life Bertram. Blas won a Big Island council seat. Kauai’s Mayor Carvalho won big 77-16. Follow the trend. Each candidate is on his, at least, second attempt.

Heavy lifting. There are a lot of factors in a race and to establish a snapshot I arbitrarily set a standard of 45% votes in an open seat race and 40% against an incumbent to recognize several candidates who demonstrated potential. S24 Bean, S25 Enos, H4 Hapai, H6 Leau, H18 Baron, H33 Kong, H37 Fukumoto, H38 Kawakami, H42 Berg and H45 Meyers.

On the other hand, we need more training, more assistance, more something to help those nailing down <25% of their vote. S2 Hale, S4 Seibert, S10 Marshall, S13 Franklin, S14 Dudek (17%), S19 Bonar, H1 D’Almeida, H2 Vannetta, H3 Cortez-Camero (15%), H5 Fogel, H8 Schmacher, H9 Holyman (19%), H12 Rinaldi, H13 Akuna, H14 Williams, H15 Fillhart (18%), H16 Sterker (18%), H20 Allen, H21 Lembeck, H22 Cuadra, H24 Thomson, H26 Katz, H29 Harding (18%), H30 Kaapu, H34 Wong (18%) and H35 Yago (16%)

Taking credit. I suggested to several groups that take appropriate credit for their influence in the elections and I am not seeing it. A lot of people did a lot of good work. Palin is already out with her video.

Whew. What’s next? Apo’s Council seat and more. Redistricting. Prep for 2012. Build districts, counties.

Monday is What We Learned. Send it in if you have suggestions.





National Field Tilts

Let’s Elect Some Conservatives

Last minute (week) tidbits, for conservatives, part 2

Last minute (week) tidbits, for conservatives, part 1

Djou – Remember When?  Update

Races to Watch

Primary Election – Fun With Numbers