DEMOCRATS TAKE CONTROL
Fewer allies and more obstacles await Lingle
The governor downplays the Republican Party's minority status in Hawaii's Legislature
Gov. Linda Lingle cruised to victory and re-election, but her dreams of making Hawaii's Republican Party a competitive political force failed.
Lingle's win over Democrat Randy Iwase may be the only major victory for the Hawaii GOP on a day when the national party lost control of the U.S. House in yesterday's election.
U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie won re-election, and former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono will be starting her freshman year in Congress as the new Democratic representative from Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District. The district, which includes Leeward and Windward Oahu and the neighbor islands, has never elected a Republican member of Congress.
Lingle had built her call for a new GOP around the need to make Hawaii's political scene competitive, but she was unable to increase the number of Republicans holding office.
Last night, Lingle downplayed the GOP's minority status in the Legislature.
"It is not going to be that big a difference," Lingle told reporters at her victory celebration. "We will continue to work as we have in a bipartisan fashion."
As much as Democrats tried to link Lingle to an unpopular president and the war in Iraq, the governor was able to bounce back, but Republicans in the state Legislature were not so fortunate.
Lingle will see a Democrat, Jill Tokuda, take the Senate seat Republican Bob Hogue vacated so he could run for the U.S. House seat that Hirono won last night. That defeat was balanced by former City Councilman Mike Gabbard, winning as a Republican in the Makakilo Senate district vacated by Democrat Brian Kanno.
Asked why Lingle was able to win while across the mainland Democrats were replacing strong Republican members of Congress, one Lingle supporter drew on the political aphorism that "all politics is local."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Democrats Mazie Hirono and Neil Abercrombie, both on their way to Capitol Hill, shared a laugh last night after the first printout of the election at the Japanese Cultural Center. CLICK FOR LARGE
"The governor has done a great job," Lingle supporter Bill Watkins said last night at Lingle's victory celebration. "She was endorsed by all the major newspapers, and she has done well despite not having the cooperation of the Legislature."
Watkins added, "Yes, people on the mainland are unhappy that the news of the war isn't better, but they differentiate the governor's role from national politics."
Lingle also suffered another blow, with voters supporting two constitutional amendments that she had urged they reject.
Both amendments weaken her power. One has the Legislature create a committee to recommend appointments to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and another creates a salary commission that would act to automatically raise legislative and state executives and judicial pay.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Representative Sylvia Luke, 26th District, waved mahalo today after her victory in the election.
Even in nonpartisan races, Lingle appears to have faltered. On Maui, for instance, Republican Mayor Alan Arakawa lost to Charmaine Tavares, who, while not saying she is a Democrat, was supported by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, titular head of Hawaii's Democratic Party.
On Kauai, Lingle beat Iwase by 1,306 votes.
That Iwase came close at all to Lingle shows the power of the Hawaii Democrats. Iwase was not a favored candidate earlier this year. The Democratic establishment tried first to get retired banker Walter Dods to run and then repeatedly asked Hawaii Mayor Harry Kim to run against Lingle, but both rejected the calls.
Iwase has been a longtime Democratic Party worker and had held two state positions: executive director of the Aloha Tower project and chairman of the state Labor Appeals Board.
But he had never been a major player, and in his one major race, that for mayor of Honolulu, Iwase came in third.
Iwase also managed to raise $330,000 compared with the record-setting $6.5 million raised by Lingle.
Star-Bulletin reporters Mary Adamski and Diana Leone contributed to this report.