Power struggle keeps Lingle and Hannemann butting heads
NAME the best political race of the year.
Is it Rep. Ed Case attempting the near impossibility of defeating an incumbent U.S. senator in a primary race? No.
Is it that one-fifth of the state Senate is running for Congress? No.
Can the best race be Gov. Linda Lingle's march to re-election? No, but you are getting warmer.
The best race this year is the one that is set in the future between Lingle and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
After winning the governorship in 2002, Lingle made much of the fact that she was a former two-term mayor and could relate to the problems of a municipality. In an effort to show that she and county leaders could all get under the hood and work on the engine of government, Lingle convened months of meetings with the four county mayors.
But after Hannemann's election two years ago, the meetings stopped. Lingle's aides say they actually stopped before the election as the press of campaigning left Hannemann little time to visit with the governor.
But no one has watched the brickbats hurl across Punchbowl Street between the state Capitol and City Hall without sensing that Lingle and Hannemann do not see themselves as complementing each other.
After slogging through an obscure argument about paying for the collection of an Oahu-only excise tax surcharge for mass transit, Lingle and Hannemann last week went back to sniping about what to do about the homeless camped in parks.
By the end of the week, Hannemann appeared to be down 2-to-0 after Lingle went to bat for the homeless.
First she zoomed through setting up a homeless shelter when Hannemann kicked more than 200 homeless out of Ala Moana Beach Park during Honolulu's historic 42-day rain storm. Then, when Hannemann announced he would boot out the homeless from the shanty-town enclaves they had made of Leeward beaches, Lingle put together a community meeting, pledged to get shelter and transitional help up and running by Christmas and added that she wanted to change the whole picture of economic despair along the Leeward side.
Hannemann has said the state, not the city, is equipped to handle homeless programs, but the Lingle-Hannemann dustup recalls the rivalry between former Gov. George Ariyoshi and former Mayor Frank Fasi.
At stake, however, is a future challenge for a federal job. If Lingle wins re-election, she has four more years in local politics. Hannemann has a re-election campaign battle in 2008. It is natural to see Lingle and Hannemann looking for a future in the U.S. Senate.
The neutralizer to a Lingle- Hannemann race is a Case win in September. So if there is one thing Lingle and Hannemann might agree on, it is that their own futures would look brighter with Sen. Dan Akaka's re-election.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org