Obama scores overwhelming victory in birth state of Hawaii
February 20, 2008
HONOLULU – Barack Obama dominated the Democratic caucus in his native state, winning Hawaii by an overwhelming margin over Hillary Rodham Clinton and extending his streak to 10 straight victories in the past two weeks.
Obama’s island roots and message of diversity resounded with Hawaii voters, who packed caucus sites with a record turnout Tuesday.
Obama took 76 percent of the vote compared to 24 percent for Clinton with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to Hawaii Democratic Party officials. He received 28,347 votes to Clinton’s 8,835.
Along with Obama’s victory in Wisconsin on Tuesday, he has won every primary or caucus held since Super Tuesday on Feb. 5.
Obama told U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, in a phone call that he was thankful for the outpouring of island support.
“He said he was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy about what was happening in Hawaii,” Abercrombie said. “His culture is Hawaii’s culture.”
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Thousands of people lined up outside schools, barns and community centers to cast their votes. Only about 4,000 people showed up at the last Hawaii caucus in 2004, but nearly 10 times that number filled out ballots Tuesday.
“It doesn’t matter how long the line was it was worth it because we need new people in the White House,” said 63-year-old Sabrina Lazares-Sabo, who waited an hour-and-a-half to vote at Kawananakoa Middle School in downtown Honolulu. The line to vote there snaked around the block for about a quarter-mile.
Many voters said they felt compelled to show up because Hawaii’s delegates might help decide the Democratic nominee in a hard-fought, state-by-state battle.
There were 20 delegates at stake in Hawaii that will be apportioned based on the caucus results. The party won’t calculate how to allocate those delegates until later Wednesday.
Obama had 1,303 delegates in The Associated Press’ count, compared to 1,233 for Clinton. It takes 2,025 to win the nomination at the party’s national convention in Denver. Hawaii’s delegates haven’t yet been added to the vote count.
An outpouring of support from younger voters for Obama likely contributed to his lopsided victory.
“It was standing-room only. Lines were pouring out the doors,” said Hanalei caucus volunteer Barbara Robeson on Kauai. “There was a lot of enthusiasm and it was nice to see so many young people there.”
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who has been voting since 1948, said the turnout was the biggest he’s ever seen.
“The last time I saw anything close to that was statehood. It made me very proud,” said Inouye, 83, after he stood in line for nearly two hours to vote. “The fact that turnout was so extraordinary shows that democracy works.”
Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959.
Only registered Democrats were eligible to participate in the caucus, but voters were able to join the party at the caucus itself.
In Paia on Maui, Jay Van Zwalenburg signed up with the Democratic Party just so she could participate in the caucus and cast a vote for Clinton.
“This seems like the only time I’m going to have a choice,” she said.
More than 120 people lined up at Koko Head Elementary School in the Honolulu suburb of Hawaii Kai even before the doors opened.
Amy Monk, Hawaii Kai precinct chairwoman, said her caucus site ran out of party registration forms because too many people showed up who newly wanted to join the party.
Officials quickly made 100 copies of their sole remaining blank form. All but six of them were used.
Obama spent most of his childhood in Honolulu until he left for college on the mainland. He still has many local ties, including his maternal grandmother, who helped raise him, and a sister. The sister, Honolulu school teacher Maya Soetoro-Ng, has actively campaigned for Obama on Oahu and Maui.
Clinton, meanwhile, won the endorsement of the state’s largest union, the 43,000-member Hawaii Government Employees Association, and Inouye, the dean of Hawaii politics.
“We’re at a time when we need some change. I don’t want to see another Bush or Clinton in the White House,” said Waikiki voter Erik Wierschem, an Obama supporter and teacher at Roosevelt High School.