CAMPAIGN GOES DOWN TO THE WIRE
Hawaii Democrats plan parties hoping to celebrate Obama win
|||Focused on getting out the vote|
|||Odds are 1 in 60M one vote can decide election|
By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dan Nakaso
There was little reason to celebrate at the last two presidential election night parties that Rick Fried threw at his Kahala home., "It was depressing in 2000, better in 2004 and we're certainly hoping for victory in '08," said Fried, a prominent downtown attorney.
Not all of the two dozen or so people coming to Fried's party are Democrats. But all are voting for Barack Obama this year, Fried said.
"Some have never voted Democratic," he said. "This year, everyone is an Obama supporter."
Across Honolulu, Obama's classmates from Punahou School, prominent Democrats and true believers are throwing parties hoping for a historic presidential win by Hawai'i's native son following eight years of Republican rule in the White House.
The Honolulu campaign for Arizona Sen. John McCain acknowledges Obama's popularity in his birthplace and the friendships he developed from his days at Punahou.
One of McCain's most ardent supporters in the Islands, fellow Vietnam War POW Jerry Coffee, has been stumping for McCain around the country and will make a last-minute appearance in Las Vegas before flying to Arizona tomorrow night to watch election returns with McCain, said Patrick Leonard, McCain-Palin Hawaii Media Liaison.
There also will be a Republican "Victory 2008 Party" at GOP headquarters on Kapi'olani Boulevard, as well as supporters watching election returns at the McCain-Palin headquarters on Queen Street.
PRESIDENCY TOP RACE
There are certainly other issues worthy of attention tomorrow night, such as the race for Honolulu mayor and Honolulu's plans for mass transit.
But they'll have to wait until the national media call the presidential race.
"We do want to know what's going on and we'll switch to the local races," Fried said. "First we have to find out what happens with the president."
Alphonso Braggs, president of the Hawai'i chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will host an election night party at the Plaza Club tomorrow intended to be a celebration for Obama — as well as recognition of other African-American achievements beginning with Frederick Douglas, the scholar and statesman who became America's first African-American vice presidential nominee.
"This election process has been historic for African-Americans and all minorities," Braggs said. "People worldwide are going to be celebrating, not just because Sen. Obama's an African-American. They feel that there are now going to be more opportunities for minorities. If anything, more people of all ethnic groups will be encouraged to step forward, for everyone to achieve. Globally, people will feel that 'I can be all that I can be.' "
MCCAIN SIDE 'NERVOUS'
A group of Republican military veterans is also planning to gather at one of their homes tomorrow night, Leonard said.
Retired Navy Capt. Jim Hickerson, who served five years and three months in various Vietnam prisoner-of-war camps while McCain also was being rotated through the camps, plans to listen to radio election reports and watch TV wherever he is tomorrow in Honolulu.
Hickerson, 74, has the distinction of being the first A7 Corsair II pilot to be shot down over Vietnam, on Dec. 22, 1967.
By tomorrow night, Hickerson plans to be right in front of his television set in his three-bedroom home in Nu'uanu, sending good thoughts of victory to his Navy buddy and fellow POW.
"I don't like to believe media reports, but I would say we are nervous," Hickerson said. "We are not confident. It's going to be pretty doggone close. We'll either be crying or we'll be celebrating."
THE 'OBAMA SWEETIES'
At Ala Moana's Pearl Ultra Lounge, a group of seven or eight of Obama's Punahou classmates, who call themselves the "Obama Sweeties," will staff the front door at Pearl for a gathering of Obama supporters, Democratic Party officials and Hawai'i's congressional leaders.
The "Obama Sweeties" named themselves after Obama's reference to a female reporter early in the campaign. They've since been helping at Obama fundraising events because of his policies, as well as their school-day ties.
"You can just imagine when you know someone as a kid," said Kelli Furushima, who graduated from Punahou with Obama in 1979. "It's just awesome."
The teenager who once good-naturedly stole pencils from Furushima in the hallways of Punahou regained her attention when she read about Obama in a school newsletter when he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.
By the time he burst onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic Convention, "we were just glued to the TV," Furushima said.
Obama's presidential run has reunited a once-tightly knit group of classmates who went in their own directions after high school, said Bernice Bowers, who was known as Bernice Glenn at Punahou.
"Barry's candidacy gave us a chance to reconnect and say, 'Wow, who knew?' Bowers said. "He definitely wasn't the rah, rah student government type who was a self promoter. He was really thoughtful and had incredible writing skills that came out in our literary magazine, Ka Wai Ola. He was a basketball player and had many facets, but was not somebody who would necessarily focus in on a career in politics."
Now, on the eve of the presidential race, Bowers is hoping for the best for her classmate — as well as for the values he would take with him to the White House.
"A lot of us came out of that Punahou environment with the same values he's articulating for the nation," she said. "It's thrilling to see a very Hawai'i-oriented set of values that includes respect for diversity and collaboration that can result in something better than any single voice. To see him take that message to the national stage ... is a turning point and why we became engaged in supporting him."
Reach Dan Nakaso at email@example.com.