Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, June 30, 1999

New GOP director
is local product

ONE sure way to check the Republican Party's reality quotient is to divide the age by the years of Hawaii residency of the GOP's latest executive director.

With a small base of support and lots of money appearing offshore, the GOP has gone to the mainland year after year for political expertise.

Like generals fighting the last war, the GOP's hired hands come here ready to fight the last mainland political battle.

It never translates.

Strategists who ran campaigns in Orange County, Calif., staged news conferences in Florida and Arizona and hustled bucks and votes in Washington, D.C., have all visited Hawaii with the intentions of setting the local GOP on fire.

They all fizzled.

Observers just shake their heads whenever the GOP unveils its latest one-size-fits-all campaign worker from the mainland.

Info Box Today, however, the war the GOP wants to fight is the 2002 governor's race.

To that end, the new party chairwoman, Linda Lingle, hired Micah Kane, 30, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools with an MBA from the University of Hawaii.

In the past Democratic organizers had it all over the GOP. The Republican rep would talk about how he or she was using the latest mainland campaign tactic, targeting mailing lists, raising donor databases and refining sophisticated polling plans -- all the while adjusting his power tie.

Meanwhile, the Democratic counterpart would be shuffling in his rubber slippers, saying he just wanted Hawaii to be the kind of place he could raise his kids and asking where you went to school.

Lingle, a charismatic politician who lost the big race for governor last year by 5,000 votes, aimed her message at the grass roots. Now she is setting the GOP sights on the same target.

The GOP that Lingle and Kane command doesn't really have much to offer in immediate returns. The party has little influence at the Legislature. In the community it continues to fight its racist past dominated by an oligarchy of plantation owners and bankers.

So Kane can start building anew, but first he and Lingle must convince the state that the GOP is for real.

Kane, who left his job as a lobbyist with the Building Industry Association, also has had several run-ins with Gary Rodrigues, the politically powerful head of the United Public Workers union.

Kane insists that the union rank and file are not wedded to the Democratic Party, although he admits that Democrats look to union support for help in Democratic primary elections.

The key, he says is that "the union leadership has failed to protect the working man and woman. They have sacrificed the membership for short-term gains."

Perhaps Kane's strongest argument is the fact that he knows the GOP history and is willing to work on a new chapter. His challenge will be to blend whatever union rank-and-file support he can gather with a more involved and engaged small-business community.

Doing all that for next year's election or keeping it fresh for 2002 are daunting tasks but, as Kane says, "it is hard to pull out, once you feel you have a chance to make a difference."

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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