CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Governor Linda Lingle
The leaderIf Hawaii's governors are remembered for their pioneering positions -- first Japanese American, first native Hawaiian and first Filipino American -- then Linda Lingle continues the tradition as Hawaii's first female governor.
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The national Republican Party intendsHawaii's governors since statehood
to showcase isles first female governor
Beginning a new era
The new boss
Governor Lingle's Inaugural address
By Richard Borreca
For the record books, she is also the first Jewish Republican woman governor in the nation's history.
But in Hawaii perhaps the most notable first is as the first Republican running the state in 40 years.
"She will have a lot of opportunity. When one party has been in control and inbred for so long, there is a lot of opportunity for a new perspective," said Colorado Gov. Will Owens, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, who took over his state after 24 years of Democratic control.
Owens also sees Lingle playing a role on the GOP's national stage as both a Democratic dragon-slayer and as a new moderate Republican.
Before jumping on the next plane, Lingle said, she wants to make sure that any national appearances pay off back home.
"My primary and overriding commitment is to the people of Hawaii. If I can combine helping them with increasing Hawaii's exposure at a national or international level, or use an appearance to reverse our anti-business reputation, I would take the opportunity," Lingle said.
Owens noted: "We will try to showcase her. We are all excited about Linda's great election."
Others, however, can see that Lingle, who will still operate the state with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, will have a difficult time.
Lingle will inherit the same anemic economy that dogged her Democratic predecessor, Gov. Ben Cayetano.
The economy, more than any other issue, will shape Lingle's time in office, said Richard Pratt, author of "Hawaii's Politics and Government" and the director of the University of Hawaii Public Administration Program.
"She has difficult issues to deal with. She has a poor economy, and it will be touched by whatever the Bush administration does regarding a war with Iraq," Pratt said. "If the economy is vulnerable and is then shocked by something that her party is linked to, it would tend to make her less popular."
But Lingle said that despite taking over as mayor of Maui at the beginning of the first war with Iraq and the beginning of the state's worst recession, she was able to boost the Maui economy.
Pratt said he has been impressed with the new energy Lingle has pumped into the once moribund Hawaii GOP.
Lingle will need that energy because her campaign promises include supporting the University of Hawaii and helping public education. Both those issues, Pratt figures, require a lot of extra money.
"These are all hard issues, and they are all looking for more money," he said.
Lingle, however, continues to say that her new administration will reform government by cutting spending, curbing waste and increasing accounting oversight.
Lingle, 49, ran for governor four years ago while concluding her second four-year term as mayor of Maui. She lost to Cayetano by less than 6,000 votes and started reshaping the local GOP as party chairwoman.
In 2000, Lingle brought a record 19 Republican legislators into the state House.
This year, she was unable to keep up the GOP House numbers as the minority moved down to 15 representatives. But Lingle's own campaign, which outspent her Democratic opponent 2-to-1, this year was victorious.
Still, Pratt noted that she actually won with fewer votes gained than she had in 1998, which he figures means many voters simply did not turn out this year.
"What that means is that her future depends on what she is able to do in the next four years," Pratt said.
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Hawaiis governors since statehood
William Quinn was Hawaii's first elected governor and, until the election of Linda Lingle this year, the only Republican elected governor in Hawaii.
Quinn was an attorney. He served only one term, but presided over the change of Hawaii from a territory to a state and guided the transition of many departments into the present governmental structure.
Considered to be the founder of the modern Hawaii Democratic Party, John Burns rose from Honolulu police captain to U.S. representative to governor of Hawaii. He died in 1975, after becoming ill, and was unable to fill out his third term.
Burns is considered to be largely responsible for lobbying the Hawaii statehood bill through Congress.
As governor, Burns set in motion a Democratic political dynasty that lasted until this year's election of Lingle.
Born in Honolulu, George Ariyoshi became the nation's first governor of Japanese-American ancestry. Ariyoshi, who was lieutenant governor, became acting governor in October 1973 when Gov. Burns was ill.
Ariyoshi was an attorney and had been first elected to the territorial legislature during the famous 1954 Democratic sweep of Hawaii's electoral positions.
He came into office at the end of Hawaii's post-statehood economic boom and guided the state through its first economic recession.
A private attorney, John Waihee was the first native Hawaiian elected as governor. Waihee benefited from an economic boom due to foreign investment in Hawaii real estate. His term was marked with expansion of state services and state government.
Also a private attorney, Benjamin Cayetano served as lieutenant governor under Waihee. He was the nation's first Filipino-American governor.
Most of Cayetano's tenure was marked by economic recessions. Cayetano was active in supporting investigations of Hawaii's high gasoline prices, making changes to the state civil service system and reducing the number of state employees.
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