Candidate Defends Endorsements Based On 'God's Values'

Published On: Sep 14 2010 05:43:07 AM HST   Updated On: Sep 15 2010 05:47:45 AM HST

A prominent candidate is being accused of letting his religion interfere too much with his politics.

Honolulu Councilman Gary Okino said he is not backing down, and said moral issues are more important to him than party rules.

Okino said because he's running against the architect of the proposed civil unions law -- he's become a target of whom he called ?liberal radicals? he said are taking over the Democratic Party.

?If you want a society that is righteous and moral that's what you got to base your vote on,? Okino said. ?And it doesn't matter if a candidate is a Democrat or Republican.?

Okino endorsed a long list of candidates in an e-mail to religious conservatives. He described his choices as "best aligned with God's values or morality."

He said he evaluated the candidates based primarily on their positions on same sex marriage, abortion and assisted suicide.

Most of those he endorsed were Republicans. Governor candidate Mufi Hannemann was one of few Democrats to win Okino?s approval.

The Democrats Okino criticized most severely were those endorsed by the Progressive PAC, which he described as ?the dark side.?

A group of progressive Democratic Party activists Tuesday called for Okino to be expelled from the party for endorsing Republicans.

Ann Freed of the Democratic Women?s Caucus pointed out that the U.S Constitution prohibits any religious test for government office, a tenant she said Okino is violating.

?He states that said Democrats are immoral because what they intend to do at the legislature will go against God?s values,? Freed said.

Okino agreed his endorsement of Republicans violated party rules.

?If they expel me from the party then probably I am going to have to work from outside, but regardless I am not going to change my outlook,? Okino said.

He claimed other Democrats have broken other party rules without consequence, but he said he's being targeted because he's running against Blake Oshiro, the state House Judiciary Chairman who championed the civil unions legislation.

Oshiro, who is gay, said he was concerned when Okino announced plans to challenge him. ?I think, initially, there was some fear and trepidation that this would turn into a personal attack.?

But Oshiro said except for a single Okino flyer focused on civil unions, social issues have not yet dominated the campaign for the 33rd district -- from Aiea to Halawa. Oshiro said he thinks Okino is only hurting himself with his endorsements.

?When you've called out your colleagues as being on the dark side and basically campaigned against them, how effective are you going to be when you have to work with them in caucus?? Oshiro asked.

Okino said voters have responded positively. ?That someone would be willing to stand up and say it?s not parties that matter but values that matter. That is resonating very well in the community,? Okino said.

The complaint against Okino has several steps to go in the party discipline process. Similar complaints have the past have taken many months, and usually led to a compromise, like a letter of reprimand instead of expulsion.


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