Thursday, October 22, 1998

'Linda Lingle on the Campaign Trail'

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Veteran political observers note that people just don't ask
politicians for their autographs. But that's what's happening
to Linda Lingle time and again. Here she signs a poster
at a coffee hour at Kalani High School.

'This is our time'

She's a woman, a 'haole'
and a Republican.
Can she make history?

By Richard Borreca


To Linda Lingle, any day starting with an hour of swimming has got to be good.

As a young girl growing up in St. Louis, Mo., she'd taken to the pool. But it wasn't until 1994 here, during her mayoral re-election campaign, that she really got into it. "That's what really helped me get through the campaign," recalls Maui's Republican mayor.

In 12 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? The sour economy is a big factor. GOP challenger Linda Lingle, Maui's mayor, insists a fresh attitude is crucial for recovery. Democrat Gov. Ben Cayetano, saying the upturn has begun, wants to finish the job. Today and tomorrow, the Star-Bulletin gives readers an up-close look at the two, their politics and their personalities. Two seasoned strategists. Two unbeaten politicians. Only one will be governor, taking Hawaii into the new millennium.

Nowadays, Lingle makes it a point to clear her schedule several times a week to churn up and down a pool.

"You can tell she knows what she is doing. She's a trained swimmer; I would say she's a pretty good swimmer," says Terrence Quingart, a morning lifeguard at the Nuuanu YMCA.

On this morning, Lingle, 45, in shorts and a green Maui Master's Swim Team polo shirt, is preparing to swim with her usual partner, Bruce Woolford, the president of D&D Industries, a furniture supply firm.

Woolford heard Lingle speak in Manoa about a year ago and was so impressed, he helped get office furniture for her Kalihi campaign headquarters.

Making a splash

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
After a successful primary, Lingle has proved she can swim
with the big fish. She starts her day here with a swim at the
Nuuanu YMCA. Below, left, she is introduced to a packed
house at a coffee hour at Kalani High School.

"I've never met a politician like her; she says something and you believe it," he says.

After one hour in the pool, Lingle is driven by Bob Awana, 52 -- her campaign manager, consultant and constant companion -- to her small apartment to change and get ready for the day.

By 9 a.m., Lingle is back in the blue-and-white Ford campaign van, a vehicle with koa paneling, special lighting and built-in TV. But the stacks of papers and folders, the bags of food and other clutter make it feel like an affluent version of a VW microbus from the 1960s.

Awana hands Lingle a draft TV script faxed over by Kitty Lagareta, campaign co-chair. Station KHNL-TV has offered all major political candidates free air time, and Lingle is on her way to tape her four minutes.

As they ride to the Sand Island station, she goes over the copy line by line, writing in the margins, cutting and changing.

The next day, Lingle is to meet Democratic opponent Gov. Ben Cayetano in the first live debate of the general election -- but she says she won't devote today to preparation.

"The debate is no big deal. I guess you prepare according to what the opponent is like," she says. "In the Fasi debate, I wasn't sure how he would be. It must be like fighters coming out; you feel the other one out," she said.

"I'm very familiar with the issues and really enjoy public policy, so I approach the debates as opportunities.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Longs cashier Caron Ling said, "I registered just so I
could vote for you." Lingle invited her to a campaign gathering.

"Some people may approach them with trepidation, but I enjoy it," she says.

Lingle likes to joke about the advice she gets, noting how a neighbor in her Kihei, Maui, condominium, a lawyer, stopped to offer campaign advice.

"I thought he wanted to talk about a new legislative proposal or a county issue, but he says 'Linda, when you are on TV do you think you could wear a little lighter shade of lipstick?'" she says, laughing.

There is no laughing, however, when she starts taping her four minutes. It runs 23 seconds too long. Awana and Lingle work on trimming it. She comes back at four minutes and wants to do it again.

When a TV assistant tells her that everyone goes with the first take, Lingle shoots back, "Everyone may do that, but only one person is going to win."


Lingle was born Linda Cutter in 1954 in St. Louis. Her father was a pharmacist -- but when her mother was diagnosed with mental illness, the family needed more money. Her father moved the family to Southern California, where his brother was in the car business.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Lingle pauses outside the office of her schedule keeper
where the sign reads "19 days till victory."

Lingle's father opened a car dealership in Los Angeles and later joined his brother, who had opened Cutter Ford in Honolulu.

Her parents divorced when she was 12 and Lingle lived with her father, then her grandparents, and finally an aunt and uncle. "It was a very traumatic time for me," she says now.

She was married in 1972 to Charles Lingle, but divorced in 1975.

In 1976, after graduating from California State University with a journalism degree, Lingle joined her father in Honolulu and worked briefly for the Hawaii Teamsters, putting out the union newspaper.

She met a former Teamsters business agent, Sam M. Peters Jr., and the two moved to Molokai, where she started a small newspaper, the Molokai Free Press.

Peters had a criminal background -- which Lingle says she was not aware of.

In 1955, Peters was sentenced to two years in prison for dealing heroin. When Frank Fasi was first elected mayor of Honolulu, Peters was named his chauffeur. In 1970, Peters was arrested at the old Honolulu Stadium for being a felon in possession of a gun.

In 1977 he pleaded guilty to obstructing the passage of a postal package containing eight bracelets worth $13,000. The items were found in his mailbox and he was fined $1,000.

Asked about Peters' background, Lingle says she had not heard about the heroin charge. "Is that true? I had no idea. I'm shocked."

She did know about the mail charge and later learned about the other charges, saying that factored into their split.

"At 22, there was a lot I wasn't aware of, but that's why we weren't together (after that incident)," she says.

In 1980, Lingle closed her newspaper and ran for the Molokai seat on the Maui County Council. She won.


By 10 a.m., Lingle and Awana are back in the van headed to Kalihi. She starts ticking off places to stop for breakfast.

"We have certain restaurants we like in all the places we go and we know when they are serving the stuff we like," says Lingle, who rarely eats at her noon speaking engagements.

They settle on the Original Pancake House in Dillingham. Lingle orders a huge bowl of cream of wheat. Food, not politics, is the general topic of discussion in Lingle's campaign van.

From Dillingham, Awana steers to Lingle's Waiakamilo Street headquarters. After years of Democrats campaigning on Kalihi roots, Lingle enjoys the irony of a white woman politician from St. Louis running a campaign from a Kalihi storefront.

"Bob drove me by several sites, and I looked at this one and said: 'This is where we are supposed to be.' There are lots of people, lots of small businesses."

About 35 volunteers are at headquarters stuffing envelopes. Lingle, who introduces visitors individually to the volunteers, has the politician's gift for remembering names and faces and easily goes down the table.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Lingle, facing the TV cameras.

She is especially proud of her volunteer scheduler, who keeps track of appointments. "They call me 'the time Nazi' -- and I'm proud of it," says Kathi Thomason.

The former corporate comptroller for Koolau Ranch, Thomason is working in her first political campaign. "This is the most exciting thing I have ever done," she says.

Lingle says it is Thomason, with her detailed schedules tracked on an office computer, who "controls her life." Says Thomason: "We have events blocked out through 1999."

"The secret of my success is to find talented people and then to motivate them to do things they didn't know they could do," Lingle says.

Another key supporter is grass-roots coordinator Gary Ishikawa, an engineer who used to work in Maui County's water department. He says Lingle now has more than 18,000 supporters and donors in the campaign database.

The big shift for the Lingle campaign came as the Legislature started to debate Cayetano's Economic Revitalization Task Force plans, Ishikawa says. Suddenly, Lingle's coffee hours were filled and volunteers were signing up.

"People just said the simple logic of his economic plan was not right," Ishikawa says. "I'm a lifelong Democrat. I left and joined the Republican Party to help Lingle -- I'm voting for the person, not the party."

At 12:15 p.m., Lingle and Awana are back on the road heading to a Cement and Concrete Products Industry luncheon at the Ala Moana Hotel. Many of the 45 in attendance are already supporters.

In her speech, Lingle works a new angle, one not heard during the primary election: She includes the Legislature in the list of things she would like to change.

"We have to have change at the Legislature," she says, ticking off the five incumbent Democrats defeated in the Sept. 19 primary.

"This year you have a clear choice. You can elect someone who just won't rock the boat, but we are at a point where our boat needs to be rocked."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Lingle is introduced to a packed
house at a coffee hour at Kalani High School.

That afternoon, Cayetano has unveiled his tax plan and Lingle is getting calls to respond. Awana fields reporters' calls while the candidate spends most of the afternoon at a newspaper's editorial board meeting.

At 4:30 p.m., back in the van, there is talk of dinner and that night's major rally at Kalani High School. Then Lingle turns to reviewing a series of campaign print ads while Awana drives and juggles cellular telephone calls from reporters.

Lingle says she doesn't want to be interviewed: "Bob, I'm delirious from a lack of food."

But when Awana hands her the phone, she starts to summarize her opposition to Cayetano's tax plan and balance it against her own. "You add the income tax cuts, the special funds he took to balance the budget and the debt service on his construction budget and they are just pretending they have a surplus," she says.

"They are counting money they don't really have."

A meal is grabbed at Kahala Mall's California Pizza Kitchen -- but not before Lingle shakes a few hands on the way to a corner booth.

At Kalani High, organizers estimate more than 1,000 have come. In the cafeteria, supporters and friends Lingle lived with during her 10 years on Molokai are helping in the kitchen.

When it's time to speak, her address has the feel of a revival meeting.

"The excitement is building, the positive change is coming -- this is the most exciting time of my life," Lingle tells the crowd.

She asks all the children to stand up, saying, "This whole election is about them, because we don't want them to have to leave Hawaii."

Referring to her running mate, former state Sen. Stan Koki, who is in the audience, Lingle says: "Walk with Stan and I these final steps -- will you walk with us?

"We are going to walk together.

"This is our time. We have been given this chance and now we have to walk the final steps and we are going to make history."

Lingle has built a
political career on change

And today, as in her first race,
she's trying to persuade voters to
disregard party and consider
the person

By Richard Borreca And Gary T. Kubota


In her first campaign, Linda Lingle, editor of the Molokai Free Press, called for change in Maui politics. It is a theme that has carried her throughout her political career.

What is needed, the 27-year-old Molokai resident said then, is a "new, higher level of local leadership."

In campaign speeches today, she recalls how she needed to win votes on both Molokai and Maui when she first filed to run for the Maui County Council in 1980.

She won, Lingle explains, because she was able to persuade voters to disregard party.

"I had to convince Democrats I was better than the other guy. Some wouldn't consider voting for a woman, particularly a haole."

Lingle ran and won a seat on the Council again in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1988.

Then in 1990 at age 37, she became the youngest mayor in Maui's history.

In this campaign for governor, Lingle has bragged about Maui County's financial health, noting that bond-rating services have given it the highest ratings among county governments in the state.

Critics, however, say Maui benefited from work done by earlier mayors. And because Maui relies on more mainland than Asian tourists than do other Hawaii destinations, it was not hurt as much when Japan's economy soured.

Lingle's attempt to privatize portions of the Maui County work force won her both backers and critics -- and raised her political stock as a statewide candidate.

Her opposition to the public employee unions' fight to halt privatization caught the attention of Bob Awana, then a lobbyist with Waste Management Inc., a firm that was trying to privatize a garbage dump on the Big Island.

Awana resigned from his job, turned in his Democratic Party card for a Republican one, and became Lingle's campaign manager.

On Maui, Lingle has found a strong ally in the county's small business owners, particularly the Maui Contractors Association.

Observers say a critical political moment for Lingle came while she was on the Maui Council and fellow Republican Mayor Hannibal Tavares sought to close Lahaina's Front Street during a flood-control project. Tavares later relented and provided a temporary bridge -- and Lingle became the champion of Lahaina merchants.

Other controversies continue to dog Lingle. These include:

bullet The $4.7 million Makawao Highlands housing project. Makawao Highlands Joint Venture Inc. had planned to build a 13-lot subdivision, but learned in 1993 it had received wrong zoning information from the Lingle administration. The firm was unable to continue and the county proceeded with the project, buying it for $1.95 million.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has charged Lingle with hiding a mistake by paying off a developer. Lingle says her administration was able to salvage a housing project and turn a potentially serious lawsuit into a win.

bullet Lingle's hiring of then-husband William Crockett using county funds. In 1994, Lingle hired him to defend her in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by a former county worker. In last week's gubernatorial debate, Lingle said: "If I had it to do again, I would not have hired my husband at that time. As a public servant, it is just not enough to act only in the public interest; you do have to avoid even the appearance of favoritism and cronyism."

bullet Campaign spending. State Democrats have filed a complaint with the state Campaign Spending Commission, saying Lingle exceeded voluntary spending limits in the primary election and violated the law. The case is being reviewed by the Honolulu prosecutor; Lingle's camp denies any criminal violation.

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