Thursday, November 4, 2004

[ ELECTION 2004 ]

On Tuesday night, Gov. Linda Lingle took time out from watching election returns on TV to speak to reporters at Republican Party headquarters at 725 Kapiolani Blvd.

lose seats in
state House

Gov. Linda Lingle wanted to win three more Republican seats in the state House. Instead, she lost six incumbents and with it her claims of having a political mandate, Democrats say.

Election 2004


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In four years the GOP presence in the House has been reduced to 10 members from 19. Republican incumbents defeated Tuesday were Bertha Leong (Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina), Guy Ontai (Waipahu-Mililani), David Pendleton (Maunawili-Kaneohe), Brian Blundell (Olowalu-Kapalua), Kika Bukoski (Pukulani-Ulupalakua) and Mark Jernigan (Keauhou-Honokohau).

Republican Kymberly Pine defeated incumbent Romy Mindo (D, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point), resulting in a loss of five GOP seats.

The GOP numbers in the 25-member Senate remain the same at five.

On election night, Republican Lingle said she was trying to balance Hawaii's Democratic-dominated Legislature because her victory in 2002 had given her a political mandate.

But yesterday, Democrats scoffed at her plans.

"It is a mandate against Lingle and her party," said Senate President Robert Bunda, who saw Lingle aim unsuccessful attacks against two Democratic incumbents, Sens. Roz Baker and Gary Hooser.

Kauai Democratic Rep. Mina Morita, who survived a strong push by Lingle to replace her with Mamo Cummings, a former Chamber of Commerce president and a member of one of Kauai's largest Hawaiian families, said Lingle failed to broaden the issues.

The Republican platform was "just too shallow, and the governor's policies are not well thought out," Morita said.

"Mamo is very bright and very articulate, but she wasn't saying anything that wasn't being said by every Republican candidate in the state," Morita said.

Former Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano, who defeated Lingle in her first run for governor in 1998, said yesterday that with the exception of endorsements from Hawaii's senior U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, "my experience is that although voters may be influenced by political party labels, they are rarely influenced by personal endorsements from politicians."

Asked about Lingle's own political coattails, Cayetano joked, "Perhaps she left them on Air Force One," a reference to the time Lingle spent campaigning for President Bush on the mainland this fall.

The failure to preserve or increase GOP votes in the House clearly hurt Republicans, who were still shaken yesterday by their party's reversals.

"I never thought we would go below 15," said Rep. Galen Fox, GOP house leader.

"Losing is tough. We had wonderful people wiped out. I'm upset," Fox added.

Fox and Lingle complained that a series of Democratic Party mailers hurt the GOP. An independent political group had said a number of the Democratic attack pieces were inaccurate and misleading, But Fox said the damage had been done.

"The Democrats managed to take our candidates apart," he said. "It appears their hit pieces are going to be the norm."

Before the losses, Lingle had worked individually with about a dozen GOP newcomers, introducing them to financial supporters, teaching them how to speak in public and then going door to door with them on the campaign trail.

"I think people will have such a clear choice if they want more of the same or not from this Legislature," Lingle said before the Tuesday election.

Brickwood Galuteria, Democratic Party chairman, rejected the GOP complaints, saying the decision was made by the voters.

"They have to blame somebody for their losses. The voters spoke, and what can you say about that?" Galuteria said.

He urged Lingle to reconsider her criticism of the Democratic-controlled Legislature and to start working with the lawmakers.

"It would be wise for her to consider that not only is Lingle leading Hawaii, it is also the Legislature," Galuteria said. "And the sooner she comes to understand that, the better it will be for all of Hawaii."

Other political observers, such as J.N. Musto, executive director of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, said Lingle's political importance does not easily translate to GOP legislators.

"I don't subscribe to the notion that there was some sort of a cataclysmic change to Hawaii when Lingle was elected. She was elected because of the kind of person she was and the kind of person her opponent was; it was not a referendum on the Democratic Party," Musto said.

Star-Bulletin reporters Tony Sommer and Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.



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