Wedemeyer Changes Parties

 

Wedemeyer Quits GOP, to Run as a Democrat

By Toni Withington
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March, 1970

City Councilman Herman Wedemeyer today announced that he is leaving the Republican Party and will seek re-election as a Democrat in November.

Since this is his "first year in politics of any sort," he spent a lot of time "listening and learning," he said--rather than "to play the news media for public acclaim as others seem to think they must do in order to be re-elected."

"It was during this last year that I realized my ideas and basic platform were actually more in keeping with the Democratic Party than the Republican.

"A great many of my friends and supporters are Republicans, but equally as many or more are Democrats.

"This brings me to the point, at the City level there is very little party politics, as most of our work is handling problems of day-to-day fiscal management, solutions to situations of growth, transportation, recreation facilities, and so forth.

"My decision therefore was reached after weighing carefully all factors and in doing so I have found the Democratic Party in 1970 to be the more solidly knit organization with clear goals in their future.

"I feel that I can be an asset to their master plan and hope that I will be accepted by the party.

"May I at this time thank each and every one of my Republican supporters who gave me the opportunity to serve my City, and humbly ask that you understand my decision and allow me to serve the City and County of Honolulu in years to come. Mahalo."

Rice Tosses Barbs After Wedemeyer

By George West
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, March 10, 1970

State Republican Chairman V. Thomas Rice says freshman City Councilman Herman J. Wedemeyer's defection to the Democratic party yesterday "solves one of the problems of the party, how to get him re-elected on his record."

Rice said, however, that his "basic feeling is one of sorrow...Even the lowliest we hate to lose."

Friends close to Wedemeyer believe that the Republican party itself is responsible for his switch to the Democratic party.

Others say that Democrats have been "romancing" him all over Oahu's golf courses ever since he was elected.

In announcing his decision to join the Democratic Party at a press conference yesterday, the one-time football great declined to go beyond his official statement.

He said that he was making the switch because after a year as councilman, he has come to realize that "my ideas and basic platform are actually more in keeping with the Democratic party than the Republican."

Wedemeyer signed the Democratic party card in the office of State Senate President David C. McClung shortly after his press conference.

One of Wedemeyer's close associates had this observation:

"I think he's antagonized the right wing of the Republican party--where the money is--by aligning himself so closely with Councilmen Walter M. Heen, Ben F. Kaito, George Koga, and Toraki Matsumoto.

"He's also a very close friend of Koga." Another friend said Wedemeyer got tired of pressures from Republican officials.

Heen, Kaito, Koga and Matsumoto are Democrats who make up the Council's power structure. Wedemeyer's switch leaves Councilman Mary George as the only Republican on the nine-member City Council.

Other Democratic councilmen include Brian L. Casey, Clesson Y. Chikasuye, and Charles M. Campbell.

It is known that Republicans have been unhappy with Wedemeyer's record as a Republican. He's also been criticized for failing to attend precinct, district, and committee meetings.

Wedemeyer, who is going through his first experience as an elected official, has been the most silent member of the Council, rarely participating in Council or committee deliberations. He has, however, an excellent attendance record.

Rice reflected the party's feelings about Wedemeyer's record in his statement on Wedemeyer's change in party affiliations. He said:

"My basic feeling is one of sorrow.

"No matter how lowly the member, there's always a feeling of sadness as you watch him go over the fence

"He's never been an active member of the Republican party. Our only real experience with him has been as a candidate and as a councilman.

"His defection solves one of the problems of the party, how to get him re-elected on his record.

"I would assume that his idea is that he may be more successful as a Democrat. I doubt if he would be any more successful as a councilman.

"Even the lowliest we hate to lose."

Councilman George received the news with amazement. She said:

"I'm astonished to hear of Wedemeyer's decision to change his party affiliation.

"I had no idea that he was considering the move.

"I do not believe that he has taken any active part in Republican activity since his election in 1968, so perhaps he is not aware of the vital proposals now being implemented by Republicans in the Hawaii 7-0 program."

Of Wedemeyer's statement that he has been going to school learning and listening about the operations of City government at the Council level, Mrs. George said:

"I do not feel that the Council is a school. We are elected to make decisions on the basis of sound, available information and not to receive on-the-job training at taxpayer's expense.

"His decision is a personal one, and, I am sure, a difficult one."

State Sen. James Clark, who also went through the throes of switching from the Republican to Democratic Party early last year, had this to say of Wedemeyer's action:

"I'm in complete sympathy with Herman's move. I think it's the right move. It will enhance his effectiveness to the people of the City and County of Honolulu

"He's an outstanding athlete and councilman.

"I'm sure in being with the majority party, he'll be much more effective than he's been at this point."

Councilman Campbell, who is also chairman of the Democratic Oahu County Committee, said he was elated with Wedemeyer's decision to join the Democrats.

"I say welcome," he said.

***

Editor's note: Four months later, in July of 1970, Wedemeyer announced his candidacy as a Democrat for the State House of Representatives from the newly apportioned 12th District (Waikik-Moiliili). He was elected and served two terms.

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