Hee and Lingle finally need each other
As Sen. Clayton Hee goes about the business of shepherding Gov. Linda Lingle's bold plan to preserve the North Shore's Turtle Bay acreage, even he admits it is a weird alliance.
In 30 years of knowing each other, Hee and Lingle have spent more time clashing than finding common ground.
The wonder of politics is that the pair need each other to accomplish their goals and both are smart enough to realize it.
Lingle's term is not up until noon on Dec. 6, 2010, but the date is coming fast. Faster than the glacial speed of state government. It leaves little time for Lingle to prepare a legacy for her history-making eight years in office.
If her stands on the Board of Education and the Hawaii Superferry have divided the state, the strong support for preserving the rural character of the North Shore has been a rallying point.
Today, as a strong Democrat, Hee serves as Lingle's most credible water-carrier on Turtle Bay.
At first Lingle had no legislation for her idea, which was so sketchily defined that it was more a well-meaning sentiment than an action plan.
But Hee says saving the area from a planned 3,500-unit mega-resort means Lingle will always be known as a preservationist.
"I am sure she is going to carve out part of her legacy through this," Hee says.
Making a legacy is tricky business. Gov. John Waihee enjoyed two terms in office and presided over the construction of the Hawaii Convention Center, Kakaako Park and the second city of Kapolei, but his strong support for native Hawaiians and the public criticism of his handling of the state surplus will likely be his remembrance.
Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is shaping up as something of the Harry Truman of local politics, is remembered for talking tough, fighting with the unions that backed him and being a liberal Democrat who pushed for the largest tax cuts in Hawaii history.
As difficult as it is to predict a gubernatorial legacy, Hee's needs are more simple: re-election.
It has been a fiery four years for Hee, but Hee is one of Hawaii's more colorful politicians who seems most comfortable after igniting a controversy.
His conduct at several Judiciary Committee hearings last year wound up with him being demoted from Judiciary chairman to Land and Water Committee chairman. Still, Hee had a hand this year in tossing out the $200 million ceded lands settlement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
So Hee needs to show some cooperation. Turtle Bay is also a big part of his Windward district; voters there want both the vacant land and the jobs at the resort saved. Carrying the governor's water should go far to replenish his own future.