Hawaii Sees Jump in Democratic Rolls, Thanks to Obama

Photo by Barbara Rosewicz, Stateline.org
Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brian Schatz celebrates opening night of the convention with fellow delegate Andy Winer, director of Barack Obama's state campaign committee.

Aug. 26, 2008, 5:00 p.m. EDT

DENVER - Barack Obama may represent the Land of Lincoln, but his Hawaiian roots have been a boon to the Aloha State's Democratic Party.

"Sen. Obama's nomination has been one of the best things for our party's growth," Brian Schatz, chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said during a break during the state's delegation Aug. 25 breakfast.

The party's membership rolls spiked by 36,000 in just one day following Obama's decisive win in the state's Feb. 19 caucuses, he said.

"We know he's the senator from Illinois but we take great pride in the fact that he grew up in Honolulu," he said.

Schatz said the party hopes to build on that momentum to win back the governor's seat in 2010, when current Republican Gov. Linda Lingle must step down because of term limits. "We have several good possibilities" in terms of Democratic candidates, he said.

Schatz said with Obama in the White House, Hawaii hopes to see more federal dollars for a $6 billion rail project, the biggest in state history. He also said he hopes the next president and Congress give Native Hawaiians the same federal recognition that Native Americans have. Obama supports the legislation, he said.