Who's at fault for GOP's decline?
The November elections were not kind to Republicans either here or on the mainland. In Hawaii, some Republicans think the local losses are Gov. Linda Lingle's fault.
Across the nation the GOP lost the majority in Congress as Democrats pressed home their opposition to an increasingly unpopular Iraq war. Hawaii had a different dynamic working.
Republicans lost another two seats in the state House and were unable to hold on to a naturally Republican district, the Kailua-Kaneohe 24th Senate District.
So now the GOP holds just 13 out of 76 legislative seats and disgruntled Republicans are searching for someone to blame.
The most visible target is Lingle, titular head of the GOP.
The reason, according to some, is that Lingle failed to campaign for the House and Senate candidates.
Critics look at the money Lingle raised and wonder why the party and the down-ballot candidates didn't get more of it.
Republicans look at the Democrats' combined general election campaign and ask, why can't the local GOP help candidates the way the Democrats do? Why can't Lingle mention all those House and Senate candidates when the automated calling machines fire up?
But wishing for more help from Lingle may not make Hawaii a more Republican state.
GOP hopes soared after Lingle took over the state party in 1999 and worked to promote candidates for the state races. Republicans like to remember that Lingle engineered an election that had 26 Republicans in the Legislature.
While Lingle may have been showing the GOP how to block and tackle, the Democrats also were starting the game without their best players, the public employee unions.
In many ways, the 2000 election was not a high point for Republicans so much as it was a low point in the relationship between the Democrats and the unions. Once the Democrats made amends with the unions, they were back in control, and the Republicans started losing again.
In 1999, it wasn't Lingle who fought with unions, it was Gov. Ben Cayetano and the new Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.
Facing a stubborn budget deficit, the Democrats in the Legislature stopped a bill to pay a promised pay raise. Union negotiations and promised benefits changed. The Legislature changed the way unions handle health insurance.
The Hawaii Government Employees Association's mandatory arbitration was replaced with a "right to strike." And public jobs could be handled by private workers.
The reaction was no union support. And that was why the GOP won. Later the Democrats repealed many of their civil service reforms, the HGEA got its mandatory arbitration back and pay raises were paid.
Lingle may have been cheering the original reforms, but she couldn't have won in 2000 without the Democrats' fumbles.
writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at email@example.com