I have great respect for both of our governor candidates, Gov. Ben Cayetano and Mayor Linda Lingle. But I have come to believe Lingle's election next Tuesday would send a thrill through Hawaii and businesses and investors outside Hawaii that the re-election of Cayetano couldn't achieve.
Lingle victory would
be good for Hawaii
It would shout that Hawaii really is changing and open to new ideas and approaches.
Re-electing a governor, however good, from the Democratic machine that has dominated Hawaii since 1962 won't do the job. Even the late, great Gov. John A. Burns, whose election started that run in 1962, told me a party turnover in the future would be a necessary good refresher for Hawaii.
Business and politics are quite different, but it is worth noting that two of America's great corporations -- AT&T and IBM -- have revitalized dramatically by bringing in outsiders at the top to shake up their stodgy corporate cultures.
There will be no major blood-letting here, Mayor Lingle has promised. But she will try to trim in areas where we have bloat and spend more on public schools and the University of Hawaii, the latter the victim of some sharp Cayetano cuts. She has a good record of stimulating business on Maui to help pay government's bills.
In their debate Tuesday night, I started to keep my notes in terms of a sportswriter scoring boxing rounds. All of them were going to Lingle, but I reminded myself that there's more to a debate than words. Cayetano looked both gubernatorial and local, a point he is stressing. He was performing solidly even if I did give the round-by-round edges to Lingle.
He may or may or not have won the most hearts and sympathy.
Cayetano, too, is committed to change -- this year's buzz word -- and can point to successes in his four years.
But Hawaii remains at sea economically -- bankruptcies up, tourism down. Independent economists doubt that a recent surge in tax collections is long term or as meaningful as the governor hopes.
The Democratic satanizing of Republicans by harking back to Big Five days is being replaced with a current effort to tie Lingle and her running mate, Stan Koki, to the politics of Newt Gingrich. She walked away from that in the debate by saying she comes from a family of Democrats but decided the best way to attack the entrenched system here is from the outside, as a Republican.
SHE has been an effective minority Republican in Maui County for 18 years. Maui now is a bright spot in the state that has blended environmental protection with economic development well enough to be rated America's most preferred tourism destination in one poll.
Lingle has answered suggestions she is a childless person lacking understanding of family problems and poverty by citing the hard sacrifices of her parents and grandparents as immigrant Jews who fled Russian persecution. She earlier flat out denied she is a lesbian.
A big challenge for the next four years is to get government unions to relax their stifling hold on management. Cayetano has worked at it, but an articulate outsider might have more success in this and other areas.
A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.