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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Youngest Hawai'i delegate a fired-up 24

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By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The fact that he is the youngest Hawai'i delegate to the Republican National Convention is not lost on 24-year-old Aaron Johanson.

Aaron Johanson

"I consider it a real honor, just because I am so young in comparison to probably the average age of a delegate," said the recent Yale graduate and the state party's new political director.

"I wanted my presence to be symbolic both on the national and state level of what our party stands for, especially for Hawai'i. ... There's just a wide variety in our party, and I think that's not something that you necessarily associate with Republicans."

Johanson is one of 20 Hawai'i delegates attending the national convention. While his family historically has been Republican — his grandmother was a Montana delegate to the 1984 Republican National Convention — Johanson said his Republican views crystallized when he was in college. His job with the GOP, which evolved from volunteering, is his official debut into politics.

Johanson said he was excited about seeing key figures in the party who shape national policy, and expected the convention would be "the biggest catalyst" for GOP activity, not only in the presidential campaign but for local races. Republicans particularly hope to win more seats in the state House, where they have only 15 of 51 seats.

"We'll be energized and ready to go," Johanson said. "I think that will make us redouble our efforts and give 110 percent instead of 100 percent.

"The convention is often used as the key points in the presidential campaign to generate just some huge momentum, and I'm excited to be a part of that. I'll be voting for President Bush. I think he's done a great job, and I'm happy that I'll be a part of what I consider a historic moment."

Among the events Johanson hopes to attend is one featuring retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, former Central Command chief, because foreign policy and national security are areas where "I can always use some enrichment."

He also is looking forward to meeting Republicans from different backgrounds and states, as well as soaking up experience on the convention floor.

"It won't just be Hawai'i Republicans, it won't just be California Republicans, it will be people united around a common cause, which is the re-election of our president," Johanson said. "That will be tremendously exciting, because I think it's an amazing thing when you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself."

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.