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Richar Borreca

On Politics

BY RICHARD BORRECA

Sunday, July 7, 2002


GOP hopes guilt
by association
works two ways


Four years ago, Hawaii's Democrats decided to sharpen the issues dividing Democrats and Republicans by making then- speaker of the U.S. House Newt Gingrich the embodiment of all things wrong with the GOP.

Democrats, as former U.S. Sen. George McGovern said, viewed Gingrich as "an intolerant, extremist ideologue."

The corollary of the Gingrich-GOP link was to equate Linda Lingle's campaign for governor as a marriage of Gingrich and Lingle. Some Democratic advisers credit that shift in tactics -- away from Lingle and to Gingrich -- as the extra ammunition needed for Cayetano's razor-thin victory.

Four years later, it appears that the GOP is preparing some political jujitsu of its own, by flopping the issue on its head and forcing Democrats to defend Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Cayetano's time in office has never been quiet, but the last four years, with the bruising fights with the Senate, the unprecedented statewide shutdown of public education during the 2001 teachers strike and his raucous battles with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, have made him one of the state's most controversial leaders.

Cayetano's efforts to trim the budget and reform civil service while taking on a teachers' strike lost him much valuable political capital. Some Democratic candidates even privately joke that they hope Cayetano will stay away from endorsing them in the fall races.

Republicans see the value in making sure the Cayetano-Democrat brand sticks.

"He is the head of the Democratic Party, we see him as part of that team," says Micah Kane, the Republican Party's Hawaii chairman.

GOP candidate for governor, Lingle, adds that "he represents a lot of what is wrong with the Democratic Party."

Lingle's radio commercials already make note of Cayetano's years in office, but what could further heat up the campaign is if Democrats feel the need to publicly defend Cayetano -- and in doing so, lash themselves to the mast of the last administration.

Lieutenant governors running for governor usually have to find a way to pry themselves away from the existing administration. Cayetano ditched the Waihee team by criticizing the former governor's pick for the Supreme Court, and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono disagreed with Cayetano's refusal to sign a labor contract two years ago, but no one has tried to divorce themselves completely from past Democratic administrations.

As the campaign progresses, however, the GOP is hoping it will score points if Democrats either support or abandon Cayetano.





Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at rborreca@starbulletin.com.



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