Sunday, September 8, 2002

Election 2002


a common factor

With Republicans gaining ground,
the candidate for lieutenant governor
could tip the governor's race

Candidates for lieutenant governor

By Crystal Kua

The one thing all the major candidates in the lieutenant governor's race have in common is experience in working in government.

But to win their respective primaries, each will have to find enough differences to distance themselves from the pack.

With Democrats trying to keep their 40-year hold on the governor's seat and Republicans within reach of snatching it away, this year's lieutenant governor's race is being watched carefully. The right lieutenant governor running mate could help one side over the top.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Clayton Hee's confidence is bolstered by the 2000 OHA elections, the first time non-Hawaiians were allowed to vote for trustees.

In that election, he was the top vote-getter in all the OHA races, with more than 156,000 votes.

"I think people today look for candidates who are independent, candidates who are not afraid to speak out, lean into the wind," said Hee, also a businessman, a former teacher and state lawmaker. "So frankly, I think that is why I was so successful in the year 2000."

Hee is proposing at least a half-percentage point increase in the hotel room tax, with the proceeds going to the Department of Education and the University of Hawaii.

Lieutenant governor candidates appeared at a July 17 forum at the Japanese Cultural Center. They included, from left, Matt Matsunaga, James Aiona, Ken Vaughan, Michael Medeiros, Renee Ing and Dalton Tanonaka.

State Sen. Matt Matsunaga, son of the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, said the lieutenant governor could be the point person in lobbying the Legislature for the administration, as well as be the governor's economic revitalization czar in championing high technology, renewable energy and ocean industries.

"We can revitalize our economy, for example, in ways that it's not so shock-prone to events (like Sept. 11)," said Matsunaga, an attorney and accountant who has served in the Senate since 1992. "Assuming the governor will allow it, the lieutenant governor can take the lead on these types of projects."

Donna Ikeda, who resigned from the Board of Education to run for lieutenant governor, believes her 20-plus years in the Legislature and her two years on the BOE give her a different insight into improving education and moving the public school system forward.

She believes having the lieutenant governor take the education helm on behalf of the administration would show its priority.

"It emphasizes the importance of education," she said.

On the Republican side, former state Judge James "Duke" Aiona and leading GOP gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle got a big boost with the endorsement of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.

"I'm not a politician, so please don't call me one," Aiona said. "I want to be a public servant."

Aiona said his years as a judge have led him to work with all departments in the executive branch, and most recently he has been doing more mediation work.

"I look at those skills as another advantage," he said. "I see it a lot different than legislators do."

Ex-broadcast newsman Dalton Tanonaka, who was also a special adviser on international relations to the University of Hawaii and city Economic Development executive director, said he would bring diverse experiences to the Republican ticket.

"I can bring to the table particularly my business and financial knowledge and contacts in Asia-Pacific where Hawaii desperately needs them," said Tanonaka, who was a CNN anchor in Asia.

Former state lawmaker Cam Cavasso is the Christian Coalition's candidate. He said he would be attractive to family-oriented voters.

"I come from a strong pro-family background," the father of five said.

Being the only former legislator on the Republican side, Cavasso said he can be most helpful to the new governor.

"I have a relationship with representatives and senators that can help the Lingle administration work together effectively with the legislative branch," he said.

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