author On Politics

Richard Borreca

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Moderation was
the ticket for
Lingle, Case

The best new idea in local politics is moderation.

Simply knowing the edges of your political party's envelope and learning not to push them to extremes has paid off well for two of Hawaii's most successful practitioners of political temperance.

The pair: Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Case won last year by forcefully running from the middle of their parties. Lingle, in a speech to the Oregon GOP earlier this year, urged party members to find common ground.

"You have to form a coalition with the independent voter, and the way to do that is to find out what is important to the independents," she said in a speech quoted by the Portland Oregonian newspaper.

"My bottom line is, if you want to be a majority party, you have to reflect the majority view of your community, of your state," Lingle preached.

Case says much the same thing, noting in a recent interview that he feels politics on a national and local level is dominated by leaders who represent the liberal and conservative fringes of both major parties.

He calls the appeal to the fringes to be a "marginal brand of politics," which, while it may win a local House or Senate race, it won't "prevail in any level above that."

"You have to have an overall mainstream approach that takes the best from all sides," Case says."That is ... the point Lingle and I have proved."

By the end of his eighth year in the Legislature, Case found himself isolated within his own party as Democrats shunned him and Republicans quoted him. His support for civil service reform and tough state fiscal policies drove away the natural Democratic allies such as labor and social services.

The same opposition followed Lingle as she completed her first year as governor. Her vetoes of budget bills and changes to public union bargaining plans were vigorously opposed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

As Case stayed away from the liberal Democratic edges, Lingle skirted the GOP conservatives, welcoming the gay political group Log Cabin Republicans into the Hawaii GOP and making sure voters knew she supported a woman's right to choose.

The elections last year proved Lingle and Case were on the right track as they both won without the usual support of the major Democratic liberal power bases.

So the question comes up, if Lingle and Case are so popular, will they wind up meeting in a 2006 race for governor?

Alex Santiago, the state Democratic Party chairman, says Case is an attractive candidate for governor, but he is not actively urging Case to come back and run.

While both of Hawaii's U.S. senators are active, they will be 79 next month so they are both watched for signs they might retire. A senatorial opening would prove attractive to Case.

"It seems pretty clear my path lies in Congress and that seems to avoid any direct head-to-head between us for a while," Case says.

A match-up between Lingle and Case either in a Senate race or for the governorship in 2006, however, is still an open question.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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


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