Saturday, February 27, 1999

GOP leader:
Lingle focus
of smears

A mainland Republican says
that isle Democrats conducted an
anti-Semitic campaign against Lingle

By Pete Pichaske
Phillips News Service


WASHINGTON -- The remnants of Hawaii's nasty gubernatorial race have washed up on the mainland.

The national Republican Party's second-in-command is telling mainland Republicans that Hawaii Democrats ran an anti-Semitic smear campaign last year against GOP candidate Linda Lingle, warning voters that Lingle, who is Jewish, would abolish Christmas if elected.

Republican National Committee Co-Chairwoman Pat Harrison made the comments most recently last week during a speech in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Harrison told a Lincoln Day dinner crowd that Hawaii's "Democratic machine" spread the word that if Lingle won, "Christmas in Hawaii would be abolished."

It was one of several campaigns she has used to portray Democrats as desperate.

Her comments are being denounced by both the Democratic National Committee and the National Jewish Democratic Council, an organization of Jewish Democrats, who say such serious accusations demand proof.

"If she has proof, she should come forward. If not, she's really lowered the bar in politics," said DNC spokesman Peter Kauffman.

"Ms. Harrison has made some extremely serious charges," said NJDC Executive Director Ira Forman. "If Ms. Harrison's charges are false, she has harmed efforts to expose real anti-Semitism in political campaigns.

"Ms. Harrison must either prove her charges or resign immediately."

Michael Levy, Harrison's chief of staff here, offered no apologies for what he called fair and accurate, if unprovable, accusations.

Levy said he spent two weeks in Hawaii in August helping the Lingle campaign, and the "abolish Christmas" allegations surfaced frequently.

"It was a whispering campaign," he said, noting there was no official source. "It was a smear campaign, and this is one of the things they put out. It's known. We've been talking about this since October. They (the Democrats) should denounce it."

But Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Walter Heen denied the accusations.

"Absolutely, utterly untrue," he said. "We never conducted that kind of campaign. And nobody here has ever said that, and we have a very vocal Republican Party."

Heen called the allegations "sour grapes" and added: "This is an age-old ploy: Blame it on a whispering campaign. ... This is reverse English on a dirty trick."

The NJDC's Jason Silberberg agreed.

"Talking about whispering campaigns just leaves the candidate and the campaign staff on the defensive," he said.

"It's just throwing out accusations and watching the Democrats squirm."

While charges of racism and alleged questions about Lingle's sexual orientation were raised and reported during last year's gubernatorial campaign, there were no reports of Democrats attacking Lingle for being Jewish.

Bob Awana, Lingle's campaign manager, said yesterday he heard nothing about such attacks during the campaign.

But state Republican Party Chairwoman Donna Alcantara said she was told Lingle campaign workers regularly fielded questions dealing with rumors being spread about the candidate -- including a few about her doing away with Christmas as a holiday.

She noted that last year, Gov. Ben Cayetano gave state workers all of Christmas Eve day off, and other local government leaders followed suit -- except then-Maui County Mayor Lingle, who said it would be too costly.

"Rumors were just rampant" during the campaign, said Alcantara, particularly near the end.

"There was some serious stuff: unions telling workers they'd lose their jobs. There was so much filth put out about her.

"I wouldn't put anything past those guys."

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