Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Linda Lingle sets
her goals for the GOP

IN Honolulu magazine's June issue, Linda Lingle reverted to her previous role as a journalist to evaluate the 1999 legislative session -- her first such article since 1984, well before she became mayor of Maui County.

She did it all herself, she told me, and sweated over both content and deadlines.

The issues she raised in the article were:

(1) Downsizing government -- sharply;
(2) Turning to a one-house legislature for economy and efficiency;
(3) Shifting the state government to "performance-based budgeting" focused on desired results of public spending rather than the spending itself;
(4) Substantial trims in general excise pyramiding;
(5) More efficient sharing of state and county responsibilities, as with roads;
(6) Restoring University of Hawaii budget cuts and looking to UH as an engine for growth;
(7) Reducing fringe benefits for new government hires;
(8) Creating a positive attitude toward business;
(9) Getting over fear of mistakes because it stands in the way of progress.

The Legislature failed on all these counts, she said, except for a too-tiny downsizing of GET pyramiding.

Since the article appeared she has been elected state chairwoman of the Republican Party and fits her assessment of the Democrat-dominated Legislature into a much broader picture of her job ahead.

She sees it as immensely important to build volunteer manpower to match the tremendous edge union workers give the Democrats. She hopes Republicans will become more involved in community service as part of their party-building.

Even above this, she thinks we, the people, must develop an attitude of urgency about addressing our problems: "We're slow while the world is moving rapidly."

She hopes for substantial GOP gains in next year's elections: recapture of the Big Island mayor's post, more legislative and county council seats. Specific numerical goals she will keep to herself. But she will be encouraging both past and new GOP candidates to get into the fray.

Her personal goal is to win the governorship in 2002. Just eight more votes in every precinct in 1998 would have put her in Washington Place then. She has a remarkable lack of rancor about this. She prefers to revel in it as the most votes ever attracted by a Republican in Hawaii.

SHE sees a precedent for what she is doing, including a 2002 victory, in the career of John A. Burns, generally regarded as the state's greatest governor. Burns was licked for governor in the 1959 statehood election, went back to work for the Democratic Party, and then became governor on his second try in 1962. No Republican has been elected since.

Lingle says she was an outsider in 1998, from a neighbor island, a woman and not known to most voters. With a new base in Honolulu, the state population center, she hopes to build to a 2002 victory.

I shouldn't make too much of the bustle in the Kapiolani Boulevard GOP headquarters the day I visited -- lots of paper-pushing and envelope-stuffing by happy volunteers. But I won't forget it either. She has a straight-talking dynamism about her that can turn people on.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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