Both John Willoughby and Scott Henderson have earned endorsements from local tea party organizations
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 08, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 10:14 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, is putting her political star power behind two little-known Hawaii candidates.
Palin, traveling the country to stump for various political candidates, placed a call yesterday on behalf of 2nd Congressional District candidate John Willoughby and state House candidate Scott Henderson, Republicans who have won backing from local tea party groups.
"Both John and Scott are commonsense constitutional conservatives, and they're both patriots and devoted family men," Palin told a small crowd gathered at a home in Kona for a Willoughby fundraiser.
"Come November, I sincerely hope that Hawaiians will support these two patriots," she added. "We do need their voices. We need their votes. We need to get our fiscal house in order and our economy back on the right track."
The call lasted about five minutes.
Willoughby, 52, a commercial pilot and retired Navy officer, is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono.
"It is odd for my opponent to seek Ms. Palin's endorsement," Hirono said through a spokesman. "But it tells us that he is out of touch with the values of the people of Hawaii."
Willoughby said the endorsement was arranged by campaign volunteer Charlie Bussell, a Kona resident who does business in Hawaii and Alaska and contacted Palin's representatives.
"He stuck his neck out and got in touch with Gov. Palin's staff and got them involved," Willoughby said. "They did the research on us because they don't just give out endorsements just because you say you're a tea party candidate or you say you're a Republican." Willoughby won a three-way GOP primary last month, topping former television reporter Ramsay Wharton by 211 votes. Since then, Willoughby said supporters have been canvassing neighbor islands and also trying to drum up support from mainland party donors.
"We know, at this late day, we've got such an obstacle just getting past the incumbent that we're going to need support from the mainland as far as some mainland money -- some word of mouth, some publicity," he said.
Willoughby's campaign had only $1,923 on hand to start September, compared with Hirono's $733,000, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
Henderson, 55, a retired FBI agent, is challenging Democratic state Rep. Cindy Evans in the Makalawena-Waimea District on the Big Island. He was unopposed in the primary.
The Kona fundraiser and Palin's call were streamed live online by the website Hawaii Reporter.