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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Lingle needs GOP
gains in Legislature

OUR general election Nov. 7 will be minus any battle for mayor of Honolulu, that having been settled in the primary.

The 40 percent turnout of registered voters in the primary was simply disgraceful. We should have had 70 percent at least.

On Nov. 7 we certainly will do better than 40 percent, but how much better?

Probably not enough to display the intense civic-mindedness we had in the early statehood years when we turned out over 90 percent in 1959 and 1960. Admittedly we have looser voter registration rules today that may affect comparisons, but 40 percent? Phew!

We have the presidential race to attract us Nov. 7. Hawaii is not totally out of reach for the Republicans and things look close nationally. So vote.

We also will have a fascinating mayor's race on the Big Island where newly minted politician Harry Kim is shaking things up.

The popular former civil defense director of the most disaster-prone county in America -- where tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, quakes, storms and droughts are part of the job -- has captured the imagination of just about everyone.

It was only near the filing deadline that he decided he was a Republican. Last month he easily beat the previous GOP favorite, Harvey Tajiri, a former legislator who came over from the Democratic Party.


Governor of Hawaii won't be on the ballot next month but the showdown two years from now when Ben Cayetano can't run for re-election, will be on a lot of minds.

In particular, Linda Lingle, the Republican chairwoman and near-winner over Cayetano two years ago, needs an improved GOP showing in the elections to validate her credibility as a leader.

It won't come easy. The Legislature certainly will remain Democrat-dominated but maybe not as bad as the current 13-2 split in the Senate and 39-12 split in the House.

Lingle's minimum need is for at least a few more GOP winners in each house. Nirvana might be enough GOP house members -- 18 -- to sustain a governor's veto, not that we have many of them.

Most likely Lingle will go up against the winner of a 2002 Democratic primary contest between Mayor Jeremy Harris and Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono.

It is likely that a lot of the people who voted against Harris in September had the indirect purpose of weakening him as a contender for governor two years from now. In other words, they are likely 2002 voters for Lingle or Hirono.

MANY such people come from unions that are pretty good at turning out their voters. That they couldn't muster enough votes to stop the outright election of Harris in the primary despite its lowest-ever turnout seems encouraging for the mayor's 2002 hopes. The non-voters may include more people who prefer him.

Hirono's strength has not really been tested. As lieutenant governor she has mostly and rightly deferred to Cayetano. She has the example of both Governors Cayetano and John Waihee, who served deferentially in the No. 2 spot for eight years before they ran for No. 1 and won.

Three lieutenant governors who challenged their bosses for the top job after their first terms all lost. They were James Kealoha against William Quinn in 1962, Thomas Gill against John Burns in 1970 and Jean S. King against George Ariyoshi in 1982.

Hirono's loyalty should bring her the support of organization Democrats. But are there still enough of them?

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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