Finding Independence Outside the Party Line

With many Hawaiians expressing disillusionment with the Republican and Democratic parties, one REALTOR® decided to give voters a third option on the state ballot.

May 2, 2014

Michelle Del Rosario wants to give her clients options. We’re not just talking real estate here: She’s giving them another choice when it comes to which political party they vote alongside at the ballot box.

Growing more and more disillusioned with the two-party political system in Hawaii, Del Rosario, broker-owner of Maui & Co. Real Estate in the town of Makawao on the island of Maui, teamed up with former Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares to form the Hawaii Independent Party (HIP). It will be the chief rival to the Republicans and Democrats in the state’s gubernatorial contest this year.

Though HIP is in its infancy (it became an official party in February after Del Rosario and Tavares garnered 2,100 signatures across Hawaii in support of its formation), the party has big aspirations: Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann has announced that he will seek the governorship on the HIP ticket.

“Most people now no longer view themselves as strictly 100 percent Republican or 100 percent Democrat,” Del Rosario says. “There was no existing party that encouraged independent thought and candidates.”

Del Rosario, who used to be the vice chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, says that HIP “evolved organically over time” during discussions between herself and Tavares. “We asked each other, ‘Do we vote the party ticket when we go to the election box?’ No, not typically,” Del Rosario recalls. “Today, I could have a larger impact supporting a third party.”

The real work began when Del Rosario went to Hawaii’s Office of Elections to ask how to form a new political party. The office gave her readymade petitions to pass out to potential supporters with all the legal language already drafted. Once she exceeded the legal number of signatures needed to form a new party (she only needed 706), she and Tavares began forming committees to build the party’s base. Currently, they are setting up a bank account and filing paperwork with the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission to begin accepting donations.

“There are a lot of people who want to lead, but not many who want to do the work,” Del Rosario laments. “We felt that forming this party would give Hawaii a clearer choice, and we’re ready for that. … Anyone could replicate this in their own state. Every state has a process to start a new political party. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re going to figure it out along the way.”

Hannemann says he decided to run for governor as a HIP candidate in response to “people’s frustration with the status quo in Hawaii politics. The current major parties have drifted from their foundations. … HIP is about Hawaii and putting the interests of our people first.”

Del Rosario says transportation will be a top issue on the HIP platform, namely restoring the Hawaii Superferry, which provided service between Hawaii’s main islands until it was shut down in 2009 over legal concerns about its environmental impact. Del Rosario also expects the expansion of commuter rail service and residential and commercial development around transit to be hot-button issues.

Hawaii’s gubernatorial primary will be held in August, but Hannemann, running unopposed on the HIP ticket, will automatically advance to the general election, to be held in November.

Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at gwood@realtors.org.

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