Tuesday, October 3, 2023 | Back issues
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Tempers Flare at Hawaiian Caucus Site

(CN) - Tempers flared briefly at a Honolulu polling place Tuesday after an unidentified Donald Trump supporter physically ejected a man wearing a jersey bearing the name of Trump opponent Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The trouble started when Mark Bell of Honolulu entered the Kawanakoa Middle School to object to volunteers dropping votes in an unattended ballot box before the 6 p.m. start of the Republican caucus.

A GOP staffer told Bell he was not allowed to campaign within 1000 feet of a polling place. Bell said that party rules only required him to stay 50 feet from the ballot boxes.

Bell said he became concerned about the integrity of the vote earlier in the day when an email blast suggesting that Mark Rubio was dropping from the race was incorrectly attributed to the Cruz campaign.

The unauthorized email actually originated with a member of The Hawaiian Republican Assembly, a splinter group loosely styled after the tea party.

According to Bell, the issue escalated when Rubio's Hawaii campaign chairwoman Erin Kealoha Fale suggested the email was authentic. "It is "really unfortunate that we're seeing this kind of thing," Fale said," but it's not really uncommon, from what I've heard in other states."

Bell said he came to the polling place as an unofficial election observer in his royal blue Cruz football jersey.

Police were called to quell the situation and the voting continued on a blustery, rainy evening that saw a few hundred people clutching Hawaii Republican Party Membership Cards file through the school cafeteria.

Delaine Sylvester, a tax accountant who moved to Hawaii from Canada in 1973 said she supported Trump because she wants "to see what a businessman can do ... Coming from Canada, I know that socialized medicine doesn't work. You can't wait two years to get a bypass."

Paul Dolan, an attorney and resident of Hawaii for 33 years, predicted that the eventual nominating convention is going to be total chaos. "People will go to any length to stop Trump. They've spent 39 million negative ads this week."

Leilani, a local 50-year old voter said she was supporting Trump because she has seen Hawaii, a democratic stronghold, become dependent on welfare. "You have to pay your own way. I can help, but I can't do it for you," she said.

Jamie Padillo, a 34-year old blogger originally from New York, though not optimistic about Mark Rubio's chances, said he felt Rubio actually has a plan, "if you can get past all the shit-talking."

The question that remains is if the vitriol that has characterized the Republican campaign will turn off voters in the aloha state, or if a Republican candidate can harness the economic disaffection that has touched the middle class, here as elsewhere.

In 2012, 10,000 voters turned out for the Hawaii Republican national caucus. The party is hoping to exceed that this year and registered people on the spot in 44 polling sites around the state.

At stake are Hawaii's 19 delegates, which will be awarded to each of the remaining GOP presidential candidates at the national convention in July.

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