Hawaii GOP chairwoman resigns over QAnon tweet controversy
By AUDREY McAVOY
The Associated Press
HONOLULU — The chairwoman of the Hawaii Republican Party has resigned after a senior party member used an official Twitter account to send tweets defending adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Shirlene Ostrov stepped down “to allow the party to recover from the controversy and focus on finding excellent candidates and fighting for policies that improve the quality of life for Hawaii’s hardworking families,” the party said in a statement. Her resignation took effect Sunday.
Ostrov said the party has been “redefining itself” since President Joe Biden was inaugurated.
“We have a stark but important choice to make: either we rededicate ourselves to our Constitution and continue to defend and uphold our best American institutions and traditions or we get distracted by conspiracy theories and social media wars,” the statement quoted her as saying.
Edwin Boyette, who had served as the state party’s vice chairman for communications, resigned on Jan. 24, one day after posting the tweets on the Hawaii GOP account.
“We should make it abundantly clear — the people who subscribed to the Q fiction, were largely motivated by a sincere and deep love for America. Patriotism and love of County (sic) should never be ridiculed,” said one of the tweets, which were later deleted.
QAnon followers advocate a conspiracy theory rooted in the baseless belief that former President Donald Trump was fighting deep state enemies and a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibals operating a child sex trafficking ring. Some QAnon believers were among the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as lawmakers were counting Electoral College votes validating Biden’s victory.
Ostrov served as chairperson for four years. In 2016, the retired Air Force colonel was defeated by former Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the special election to serve out the remaining term of U.S. Rep. Mark Takai after his death.
As chairperson, she had mixed success trying to boost the number of Republicans in the state Legislature, which is dominated by Democrats.
Rep. Val Okimoto, a Republican who represents the Honolulu suburb of Mililani in the state House, said Ostrov’s resignation was necessary for the future of the party and “a crucial part” of her taking responsibility for what happened on the party’s social media account.
“It is high time we become the party of Lincoln and not a party on the fringe. Hawaii deserves better than that. It deserves a functioning two-party system,” Okimoto said in an emailed statement. “It deserves a Republican Party that fights for the people’s best interests instead of fighting between themselves.”
Fellow Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott said Ostrov worked hard and did a good job but she made the right decision to get a fresh start.
Neither Ostrov nor Boyette returned messages to AP on Monday seeking comment.
Republicans lost one of their five seats in the state House in the November general election, leaving them with just four out of the 51 seats in the chamber. The party holds one of the 25 seats in the state Senate.
The party’s first vice chairperson, Boyd Ready, will serve as acting chairperson. The party will elect a new chairperson and executive committee in May.
The party’s statement said Ostrov invigorated the Hawaii GOP, bringing in national resources to help candidates and presided over a 60 percent increase in members in 2020.
Ostrov will continue to serve on the party’s executive committee as immediate past chair and will help party efforts to elect more Republicans.