The Hawaii County Democratic Party’s annual Independence Day Picnic on Wednesday drew scores of Big Islanders who reveled in the smorgasbord of Democratic candidates vying for county, state and federal offices this fall.
From candidates seeking the U.S. Senate and House seats to those looking to secure a position in the Hawaii County Council, some 23 candidates, or candidate representatives, spent a couple hours talking story with residents and other politicos. Fifty were invited, said John Buckstead, chair of the West Hawaii Democrats, which organized the event sponsored by the Hawaii Democratic Party.
“Today we celebrate Independence Day and what the Revolution was all about: self-governance,” Buckstead said. “This gives the public a chance to talk face-to-face about the issues.”
Because the picnic, held at the Old Kona Airport’s Makaeo Events Pavilion, drew nearly two dozen politicos, long speeches were dropped in favor of face-to-face time, Buckstead said. About 200 people attended.
Now in its 11th year, the free event, which is open to the public and Democratic Party members alike, offers candidates and constituents to mingle whilst enjoying food, entertainment, games and prizes. Following the picnic, candidates and Democratic Party members marched in the 17th annual Kailua-Kona Independence Day Parade.
The West Hawaii picnic began in 2002 to provide a place for residents to rally for the Democratic Party, said Buckstead, who’s been involved in the event since its founding. After a decade, the event continues to draw about 200-plus people annually.
While the number of participants may not have increased dramatically over the years, organizers and party members believe the event has helped to bring new vigor into politics and get more people on Hawaii Island involved in politics and the election process.
For Malama Solomon, a candidate vying for the Big Island’s newest Senate seat — the Fourth District, the event is helping address the party’s on-going challenge of getting constituents out to vote. Several other candidates voiced nearly the same position noting it helps fuel grass-roots politics as well as unify and support the Democratic Party.
“There’s been a definite change in getting people more involved,” Solomon said, noting the change coincides with the 2008 Presidential election. “This whole event is about getting people in the spirit to say that their one vote really matters — this is the foundation of our democracy.”
For more information on the Hawaii County Democratic Party, visit hawaiicountydemocrats.org.