Voters rejected partisanship in overturning GOP reign
Elections showed that voters have tired of toxic, divisive politics.
THE outcome of Hawaii elections could have been scripted weeks in advance as voters sent back to the state Capitol a popular Republican governor who will have to contend with a Legislature dominated by Democrats for another four years.
The political balance of power between the executive and legislative branches in the islands is the reverse of party positions in Washington as Democrats swept into the majority of the U.S. House on Tuesday and edged closer to the same in the U.S. Senate.
Hawaii's all-Democratic delegation to Congress likely will gain major leadership roles inside the beltway because of the power shift, and its newest member, Mazie Hirono, will find herself among friendly faces.
Hirono easily won the House seat left open when Ed Case unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Daniel Akaka in the primary. Case himself sounded wistful as he watched Hirono, Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Akaka celebrate their victories. "My timing was a little off this year," Case said in a television interview.
Indeed, Case won't be there to contribute to voters' demand for a less toxic and more productive environment in the nation's capital.
As in Washington, Hawaii's political leaders say bipartisanship will be the byword, but Gov. Linda Lingle will go back to work with her executive powers weakened by two constitutional amendments voters approved. She no longer will be able to choose her own nominees for the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and will have to yield to a salary commission on pay increases for her department directors, legislators and judges.
Despite her wide appeal to voters, Lingle has been unable to tow other Republicans in her wake, even those she has anointed or appointed.
Two school board candidates she designated to fill vacancies failed to win elections. State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, whom party officials chose to substitute for a drop-out candidate against Akaka, made a good showing notwithstanding a late start and little help from Lingle.
The governor faced a nominal challenge in an underfunded, largely unknown Democrat, Randy Iwase, yet as the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca reported, Iwase trailed Lingle by only 1,306 votes on Kauai, demonstrating the power of Hawaii Democrats.
Lingle's individual prowess might not have the same kind of muscle, but her strength could become more evident as her lieutenants, who now stand in her shadow, cultivate their Republican base through her next term.
At the same time, however, ambitious Democrats, many of whom reside in the Legislature, will be sure to challenge her initiatives, in part to check her political aspirations, which undoubtedly do not end at the governor's mansion.
It shouldn't matter whether isle Democrats' strong showing Tuesday was because of voters' displeasure with divisive D.C. politics or because of long-standing Hawaii traditions. Both parties owe voters productive cooperation to tackle issues that face the state and the nation.