There's no place like home stretch for governors
A Hawaii governor's last term, according to local wisdom, is not a happy time.
If there was a place to scribble "There be dragons," it would be on the last two years of a Hawaii governor's appointment book.
Former Gov. George Ariyoshi would tell you things were going along fine, until the economy hit the skids in the mid-1980s. And former Gov. John Waihee can remember both the triumphs of his first term and the rejection of his nominees by the Senate plus the endless rounds of legislative investigations and again the faltering economy that ended his term in 1994.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, never popular but somehow always the last man standing, saw even his meager public approval rating dive in his last term. If the economy in Ariyoshi's and Waihee's last years was gloomy, Cayetano's final term was born under a dark star that nearly flickered out with the terrorist attacks in September 2001.
Now comes Gov. Linda Lingle, edging into her last three years.
The Legislature looks at Lingle through two different glasses. First, the anomaly of being a popular woman Republican governor in one of the most passionate Democratic states is not lost on the legislators.
As much as she does or doesn't work with, differ from or even include the Legislature, Lingle is a central part of the conversation of every legislator. The biggest example was the special legislative session she called to resolve the problems with the Hawaii Superferry.
In the end it was the Legislature that passed a bill urged on it by Lingle. Then, in a twist, Lingle, the mistress of stagecraft and staged ceremonies, signed the Superferry bill into law without even mentioning it to the legislators.
When they are not looking for Lingle in their rearview mirror, the legislators think of her as any other second-term governor, soon to be a star-crossed lame duck.
In truth, Lingle appears headed into a rough patch. The scandals over her resigned chief of staff Bob Awana don't appear to be over, her relationship with the Senate is tone deaf to put it diplomatically and the time for making a legacy is running short.
In his closing speech to the Legislature after 13 years in office, Ariyoshi recalled that the chamber was filled with friends and colleagues of a lifetime.
"As the issues have come and gone, you have been with me in some and against me on others -- but we have remained colleagues.
"You represent your own areas and each has its own needs. Yet you work in the end as a whole.
"It is in the Legislature that the tensions between the needs of the individual and the needs of the whole community are addressed and resolved."
Good words for Lingle to heed.