Friday, October 23, 1998

'Ben Cayetano on the Campaign Trail'

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Gov. Ben Cayetano and wife Vicky at a campaign rally in Hilo.

Rallying the faithful

Defending the Democratic Party
and mustering the troops, Cayetano
pushes for another term

By Richard Borreca


Like Democrats before him, Ben Cayetano finds the roots of his party not in the concrete-paved suburbs or the condominium-choked urban core, but in the wide-open spaces of the neighbor islands.

Four years ago, Cayetano won every island in the state in a three-way general election. Now supporters say if Cayetano can hold Maui Mayor Linda Lingle, his Republican opponent, to a tie on Oahu, the neighbor islands will drive him home to a second four-year term.

In 11 days, Hawaii will know. Will there be a new governor -- a Republican -- for the first time in decades? Or will the state stay true to its roots and the Democratic incumbent? Linda Lingle and Ben Cayetano are two seasoned strategists. Two unbeaten politicians. Only one will be governor, taking Hawaii into the new millennium. In the last of two parts examining their politics and personalities, the Star-Bulletin today takes a look at Cayetano

"This election is going to be one of the great challenges that we Democrats have faced," Cayetano told supporters as he opened his Maui campaign headquarters in June.

The Democratic unity theme continued last week. While campaigning at a successful rally in Hilo, Cayetano again sought out Democrats to rally around his campaign.

"One of the most important things to me as I look out at this mixture of faces here today is to remember that the Democrats built this state," Cayetano told a crowd estimated at 4,500 to 5,000 at Edith Kanakaole Multi-purpose Stadium.

Gerald DeMello, director of university relations for the University of Hawaii-Hilo and one of Cayetano's Big Island campaign coordinators, predicted a close race -- and said Cayetano is gaining momentum.

"You talk to people and hear the positive comments, and people who before said they were uncertain now say that they have made a decision," DeMello noted.

One person who has come back to the Democrats is Big Island rancher Larry Mehau, who was a prominent figure at the Hilo rally.

‘The Democrats
built this state’

By Ken Ige. Star-Bulletin
A crowd estimated at 4,500 to 5,000 turned out at a rally for
Cayetano, shown with wife Vicky, in Hilo. His supporters say if he
can hold opponent Lingle to a tie on Oahu, the neighbor islands
will give him a second four-year term.

In past campaigns, Mehau has been a Democratic gubernatorial campaign regular, but four years ago he supported Republican Pat Saiki in her unsuccessful campaign. At the time, Cayetano criticized Mehau, saying Mehau was involved in politics only for personal gain.

Cayetano said people like Mehau "have no party affiliation because power has no need for idealism. They are neither Democrat nor Republican. They are what I call 'Selfocrats.'"

In his 1993 speech to the Honolulu Rotary Club, Cayetano charged that Mehau and former Republican party leader and gubernatorial candidate D.G. "Andy" Anderson had helped themselves to the state's political spoils.

"Both Andy and Larry have much in common," Cayetano said. "They are close pals -- Larry helped Andy get his lease for John Dominis Restaurant -- and they both became millionaires because they have been part and parcel of the 'old boy' network."

He added: "The last thing on Earth that the 'old boy network' wants is Ben Cayetano as Hawaii's governor."

Now Cayetano says he welcomes Mehau's support. Former Gov. George Ariyoshi, a political friend of Mehau's, set up a meeting between Cayetano and Mehau.

"I was critical of him (Mehau). ... We sat down and had a long talk. Gov. Ariyoshi introduced me to him and he wanted to support me and I said 'OK,'" Cayetano said last week.

"I was critical of him because of his relationship with Andy Anderson," Cayetano added.

"I talked with him, cleared up some of the ideas I had about him in the past and he is supporting me. I welcome his support."

DeMello said Mehau helped bring in the entertainers for the Big Island rally, including Don Ho and the Society of Seven.

That kind of political networking makes up the strength of the Democrats' unity campaign.

On Molokai, for instance, Cayetano is getting strong Democratic support even though it is Lingle's home base.

"He's strong on Molokai," said Pancho Alcon, Cayetano's campaign coordinator on Molokai and a 10-year veteran of political campaigns.

Alcon, an insurance general agent, got his start helping former state legislator Clayton Hee, now an Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee and close Cayetano ally.

By Ken Ige. Star-Bulletin
The Cayetanos in the Hilo receiving line.

"The big issue is the economy, and he (Cayetano) has helped with a lot of projects," Alcon explained, pointing to new classrooms for Molokai High School and a recent groundbreaking for a Hawaiian Homes subdivision.

For Democrats, however, Cayetano sees the issues of this governor's race stretching further than just construction projects. For the 58-year-old attorney and former lieutenant governor and legislator, the election is about the philosophy that directs state government.

"With the help of my attorney general, we changed forever the way the Bishop Estate will be run," Cayetano said last week in an impassioned defense of Democratic liberalism.

"We have changed forever how the University of Hawaii will chart its destiny.

"Leasehold conversion was spawned by the philosophy I believe in -- that is a change the Democrats made in this state.

"We changed the health care of the people in this state by passing the only mandatory prepaid health care in the country.

"Name me one change nationally or locally that has uplifted the lives of the American people which was proposed by the Republican Party," Cayetano said.

"Whenever I ask this question there is a ripple of silence in the audience," he said to a largely quiet, pro-Lingle group.

It was the Democrats, Cayetano continued, who pushed through Social Security reform, health care and Medicare. Working people benefited from minimum wage guarantees and workplace safety regulations.

"Those are the values I hold, that is the philosophy I believe in and from that philosophy has sprouted ever positive and beneficial change that has made our country great," he said.

On the Big Island, Bob Makuakane, a retired former county worker, is volunteering to help with the Cayetano campaign. He's winning votes, Makuakane said, one person at a time.

"People say they want change. We ask -- what kind of change do you really want?" he said.


At the Hilo rally last Saturday the food booths were arranged according to ethnic type or specialty. The signs: Korean, Filipino, Portuguese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Okinawa, Desserts and Coors.

Julie Ignacio, a principal at Kaumana Elementary School, was passing out andagi at the Okinawan booth.

"On the Big Island, what makes a difference is the person-to-person campaigning," Ignacio said. "It has to be done friend to friend."

Melba Kurashige, a retired teacher, added that neighbor island campaigning is best done house to house.

By Ken Ige. Star-Bulletin
Russell Okata confers with Larry Mehau, right, at the Hilo
rally for Cayetano. The governor and the Big Island rancher
have made peace, and Mehau is supporting the
incumbent's bid for re-election.

Illustrating that close-knit attitude, Kurashige inspects huge crates of andagi being wheeled past, and says of the deep-fried dough balls: "Oh, I hope these are from Mrs. Miyashige; she is the queen of andagi. She does it all by feel and that is why her andagi is the best."

As strongly as Democrats have relied on their first- and second-generation elders to bring victory, so is it now critical to bring their younger generations in.

To win next month, Cayetano and his campaign officials have said, the Democrats must appeal to young local voters by reminding them of the struggles of the early Democratic Party.

At the Hilo rally, Sheldon Fujiwara, 22, a UH-Hilo student, was waiting in line to get into the stadium.

Describing himself as a Lingle supporter, Fujiwara said he came because friends brought him along.

"Cayetano is same-old, same-old, you know," he said.

Political veteran Turk Tokita warned that this reaction is the big danger now for Cayetano.

Tokita, a member of the famed 442 Regimental Combat Team in World War II, has campaigned for every Democratic governor since Hawaii became a state in 1959. He said young voters are forgetting their roots.

"It is because we aren't the have-nots anymore. We are just enjoying the fruits of our work," Tokita said.

"We have become complacent and forgot how we got here."

From Kalihi to
Hawaii’s top job

From hard beginnings, a hard-nosed
governor was born. For all his political life,
he's been rocking the boat

By Richard Borreca


A hard life and hard work define Ben Cayetano.

Born in Kalihi, Cayetano tells how he learned early to assume adult responsibilities.

By the time he entered politics by winning a state House race in 1974, Cayetano had a family, a law practice and was poised to begin one of the state's most colorful political careers.

Cayetano served two terms in the House, where he headed the Transportation Committee and became a strong opponent of the city's plans for a large-scale rail transit system.

He served only one year as Senate Ways and Means chairman, from 1979 to 1980. But after a Senate reorganization moved him to the Health Committee, Cayetano managed to make headlines with an exhaustive investigation into the state heptachlor-milk contamination case. The Cayetano-led committee probe proved embarrassing to the state Health Department and administration of then-Gov. George Ariyoshi.

Later, with the Senate Economic Development Committee, Cayetano was involved in helping to reform state financial laws after a local savings and loan company collapsed.

But when an attempt by Cayetano and five others to take control of the Senate leadership failed, then-state Senate President Richard Wong -- now a Bishop Estate trustee -- stripped the dissidents of committee chairmanships and key legislative posts.

The action drew the six together, forging close political alliances.

Former Sen. Charles Toguchi, for instance, is a key member of Cayetano's re-election campaign and had served as his executive assistant.

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Sen. Lehua Fernandes Salling, former Big Island Mayor Dante Carpenter and former state Sen. Duke Kawasaki were the others aligned with Cayetano.

In 1986 Cayetano left the Senate to run for lieutenant governor. Vying against Honolulu Mayor Eileen Anderson in the Democratic primary in his first statewide race, he defeated her by more than 40,000 votes.

Early on as John Waihee's lieutenant governor, Cayetano organized a massive staggered-work-hour schedule in an ambitious attempt to reduce morning traffic congestion.

Later, Waihee assigned him to work on child-care problems, and Cayetano devised the popular A+ after-school program.

The two ran as a team and won again in 1990 -- the first time a lieutenant governor remained for a second term in Hawaii's history. But by the eighth year of their relationship, Cayetano was critical of Waihee and his appointments.

When Cayetano decided to run for governor in 1994, Waihee stayed out of the primary-election battle, citing divided loyalties since his health director, Dr. Jack Lewin, was also running.

Cayetano won a three-way general election with 35 percent of the vote -- and before his first year was even half over, he was struggling to cut massive state deficits.

Some estimates had the state running more than $700 million in the red. Since then, Cayetano has maintained that the state budget reflects a surplus of $154 million. Critics, however, insist that the budget figures don't include millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

Among Cayetano's more controversial moves has been the formation of his Economic Revitalization Task Force, which aimed to tackle Hawaii's dismal economy but fell prey to charges of elitism and mixed legislative results.

Also controversial has been his launching of an investigation into the powerful Bishop Estate after a newspaper article by community leaders focused attention on a series of potential abuses of the estate by its trustees.

Cayetano's administration has also sued the tobacco industry and major gasoline producers.

On a personal level, Cayetano became Hawaii's first governor to be divorced while living in Washington Place: He and wife Lorraine were divorced in 1996 after 37 years of marriage.

In 1997, Cayetano married Vicky Liu, president of United Laundry Services. The family now includes five children: Brandon, Janeen and Samantha Cayetano; Marissa and William Liu; and one grandchild, Micah Ancheta.

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