Monday, September 23, 2002


The race is on

The major standard-bearers both
make the case that they are
the candidate for change

By Richard Borreca

Hawaii's gubernatorial campaign between Democrat Mazie Hirono and Republican Linda Lingle started to take shape yesterday with two key issues emerging early: who will woo supporters of state Rep. Ed Case, and how many debates will the candidates have.

Case gained 74,082 primary election votes Saturday, losing to Hirono by only about 2,600 votes.

In many areas during the primary, Case's message and support mirrored that of Lingle. They had a similar approach to splitting up the state's school board and cutting back on government. Case was also highly critical of Lt. Gov. Hirono for limiting the chances for debate to only one televised appearance.

Precinct-by-precinct vote returns also show that Case won many of the same areas, such as Kihei, Maui, and East Honolulu, that were dominated by Lingle four years ago in her first run for governor.

Lingle is already courting the Case voters, saying yesterday at a GOP unity meeting that "As Ed Case said so well, 'She has no plan ... she has no record, and with Mazie Hirono as the candidate, nothing will change.'"

Hirono, however, shot back that she had agreed to one debate, and she was not going to let Lingle set her agenda.

"She is not going to control this election for all of us," Hirono said.

"Her manipulations to try to force that is really political. We all know that it is political," Hirono said.

Former Maui Mayor Lingle says she has accepted invitations to 20 debates and forums, with the first one before the Building Industry Association tomorrow night. But Lingle said Hirono said she would not attend.

Barbara Tanabe, a spokeswoman for Hirono, said the invitation was misquoted and before Hirono could accept, she had another appearance scheduled for tomorrow.

Yesterday, during the Democrat's own unity breakfast, Case said his platform of change was essential for any Democrat who hoped to win in November.

"I am assuming she is going to want to take my issues into the campaign, and I think she knows it. I know it, the entire Democratic party knows it and the state of Hawaii knows it," Case said.

Case, however, gave Hirono an opening to agree to his platform.

"If a Democrat can articulate change in the context of traditional Democratic values, that's a winning combination. That is the challenge Mazie faces, and I think she is up to the challenge," Case said.

With only 45 days until the general election, neither Hirono nor Lingle has much time to savor their primary election victories before plunging into a full round of campaigning.

Hirono said yesterday she had expected that her big 26-point lead against Case would close, but she was surprised that it had narrowed to just 2,000 votes.

In a Star-Bulletin/KITV 4 News opinion poll in August, 44 percent of registered voters who said they were Democratic or leaning Democratic said they would vote for Hirono, while 18 percent said they would vote for Case.

"We are going to win in the general election. We will extend our grass roots. We will get more money to get the message out.

"I have been talking about bringing about positive change, and I have also talked about my record," Hirono said.

Democrats also hope to use Lingle's opposition to a bill to cap gasoline prices in Hawaii as a way to separate Democrats and Republicans. Democrats in the Legislature pushed through the gasoline cap, in reaction to the failure of the state to win in a lawsuit against the major oil companies.

"She (Lingle) would veto the gas cap," Hirono said. "That is not the kind of change we want."

For her part, Lingle was quick to also use the "change issue" against Hirono.

"Last night we heard Mazie Hirono say she was for change. The people throughout the state were laughing -- because she has been there for 20 years as part of the power structure," Lingle said.

"She is right about wanting change; she just isn't the person to bring it about," Lingle said.

Mazie Hirono

Born: Nov. 3, 1947

Background: Eight years as lieutenant governor, 14 years in the state House

Personal: Married to Leighton Oshima; no children

Linda Lingle

Born: June 4, 1953

Background: Eight years as Maui County mayor, 10 years on the Maui County Council

Personal: Divorced twice, no children

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