POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2010
Oahu Democrats voted yesterday to expel Honolulu City Councilman Gary Okino from the party and barred him from rejoining for five years for endorsing several Republican candidates.
Okino resigned from the party in October, but party leaders opted to proceed with a complaint filed against him.
"The principle involved is pretty elementary and should be obvious to any observers," said Tony Gill, the chairman of Oahu Democrats.
Gill said the party does not expect "absolute uniformity" from members on the party's platform or direction. But he said the party must have the ability to define and enforce boundaries for conduct. He said Okino's Republican endorsements were an egregious violation of the party's rules.
Okino, a Christian, wrote a series of e-mails to supporters urging them to vote consistent with their faith. He recommended several Republican candidates -- including Cam Cavasso, who was running against U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, the state's leading Democrat -- because of their opposition to civil unions and abortion.
Okino, who ran unsuccessfully in the primary for state House, said yesterday that he was looking for the best candidates regardless of party.
He said he hopes the party would now proceed with punishment against Inouye, who for decades supported his close friend and ally, the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
"I just hope they're consistent and they will go after Dan Inouye," Okino said.
The party's constitution states that members may be expelled, censured or reprimanded for the active support or promotion of a rival political party.
Democrats agreed to reprimand state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D, Kapolei-Makakilo-Waikele) last year for working against a civil-unions bill and undermining the party's platform on equality and civil rights.
A few Democrats complained privately about Inouye's support for Stevens, but no formal complaint was ever filed.
Many Democrats understood that the Inouye-Stevens relationship spanned more than four decades and was part of a political alliance intended to help the new states of Hawaii and Alaska compete for federal money and influence in Washington, D.C.
Okino's Republican endorsements were not based on his personal relationships or any long-standing political ties.
"In all cases," he wrote supporters, "when you have a choice between candidates, vote for the candidate who most exemplifies God's values."
Gill said the party followed through with the expulsion and five-year ban, even though Okino resigned, to prevent Okino from rejoining the party if he decides to run for partisan office during the next two election cycles.
"I think the party is entitled to say, 'Pick your team, my friend,'" he said. "Decide what side you want to be on."