CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
William Aila Jr. prepared yesterday to debate rival Democrat Randy Iwase at the Lutheran Church of Honolulu.
Lingle plans statewide canvass this weekend
The two vying Democrats are still busy raising money
Gov. Linda Lingle is putting 450 foot soldiers into the field this weekend in the first statewide show of force in her re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, the two Democrats hoping to oppose her after the primary, former Sen. Randy Iwase and Waianae harbormaster William Aila, are raising money and starting their own rounds of coffee hours and house-to-house campaigning.
The actions come in the last weeks before the post-Labor Day start to the primary election.
Historically, Hawaii's political campaigns don't pick up speed until after the Labor Day holiday. This year Lingle hopes to get a jump with her statewide canvassing.
Lingle's volunteers have identified likely supporters, and today they will be given literature reminding voters that they can vote absentee or in person on election day, Sept. 23.
The long colored door-hangers will be distributed by Lingle campaign workers across the state. Lingle says she plans to campaign door-to-door in the Ewa Beach area today.
In an interview last week, Lingle said the surging popularity of absentee voting, which she says could be as high as 40 percent in the General Election, makes planning a campaign difficult.
"You have to plan three campaigns with three strategies. There is walk-in voting, vote by mail and then election day," Lingle said.
For the two Democrats, the first issue is raising enough money to be competitive. Iwase says he held a successful fundraiser last week at the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and hopes to have about $180,000. Iwase's last campaign spending report showed about $17,500 in available cash.
Whatever he raises will be enough for radio ads but not television, Iwase said. In comparison, Lingle has raised $6 million. She said she will have several low-key private fundraisers during the campaign and is also planning to host Arizona Republican. Sen. John McCain in October for a fundraising lunch on Maui and dinner in Honolulu.
Aila says he just concluded a fundraiser at St. Andrews Priory that attracted 150 supporters.
As a political newcomer who has never held elective office, Aila says he is emphasizing that inexperience as a strength. He reported having about $6,700 left to spend, according to his last campaign spending report.
"I am emphasizing that I am a nontraditional candidate, and I think Hawaii wants a nontraditional candidate that can work with the Legislature and the mayors to tackle our difficult problems," Aila said.
The high cost of housing is the state's top problem, Aila said. Iwase agreed that the issue of affordable housing comes up in all of his community meetings.
Lingle said she thinks education is the state's top concern, but adds that her administration is working with the Legislature on increasing the supply of both emergency shelters and long-term affordable housing.
The two Democrats will face each other in the Sept. 23 primary election, and both are confident that their campaigns are moving forward. Iwase said he has been walking house to house, and just finished ringing door bells in St. Louis Heights.
Aila reports "burning up those air miles" as he travels to the Neighbor Islands.
"I was at a forum in Hilo for the Family and Education Coalition. What impressed me was that all the candidates treated each other with such great respect," Aila said.
Lingle says she has to divide her time between "running the government" and campaigning.
"Four years ago I ran full-time; now I just have to fit it in," Lingle said.
To do that, Lingle says she makes a point of stopping by her Kapiolani Boulevard headquarters at least once a day and also comes in around lunch time to talk with volunteers.
Looking ahead to the general elections, Lingle repeated her intention to be in at least one televised debate with her Democratic party opponent, either Iwase or Aila.
"I think it is important to see the candidates side by side. Whether I accept any other debates will be an issue of my schedule," Lingle said.