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Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Presidential election
will go to recount

Bullet The issue: The road to the White House has been temporarily blocked by a finish so close in Florida that a recount is required.

Bullet Our view: The only losers in the presidential race so far are the media, which first declared gore the winner and then Bush before deciding it is still up for grabs.

PRESIDENTIAL elections don't get much closer than this. Rarely do Hawaii voters experience casting votes for president in the afternoon before the winner has been announced from mainland results.

Americans were left in suspense for more than three hours after Hawaii's polls closed until news organizations announced that George W. Bush had won the election. Two hours later, the media weren't so sure and won't be until Florida's votes are counted again.

The media declared Gore the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes early in the evening, but Bush and Republican analysts immediately questioned the call.

Several hours later the declaration was withdrawn, then Bush was declared the winner. Gore telephoned Bush and conceded defeat, but when the margin in Florida dwindled, he retracted his concession. Although recounts rarely overturn election outcomes, a turnaround of 1,200 votes -- or 600 voters -- among a total of some 6 million votes cast in the state is plausible. The only clear loser in Florida was a media too quick to anoint -- twice.

A Bush victory would enable the Republicans to control the White House, the Senate and the House for the first time since 1952. Regardless of the results of the recount, the closeness of the election cannot not be regarded as a mandate by either party. A GOP monopoly of Washington, if it occurs, could be not only slim but temporary, considering the normal rebound by the party out of power in off-year congressional elections.

Bush and Vice President Al Gore both ran as centrist candidates and, despite visible passion during their campaigns, differed in minor ways on such broad issues as health care, the size of government, what to do with the projected budget surplus and protecting Social Security. The most important distinction between the two men is likely to be the kind of Supreme Court justices that the next president will nominate.

The Florida roller coaster was not the only extraordinary event of the election. If Gore is defeated, another Democrat will take center stage in the nation's capitol -- none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. The first lady defeated Republican Rep. Rick Lazio for retiring Daniel Patrick Moynihan's seat representing New York in the Senate. For three weeks -- between the swearing in of the new Senate and Bush's inauguration -- the president's wife will be a senator, an unprecedented and bizarre circumstance.

OTHER races of note were the successful purchase -- for more than $60 million in campaign expenditures -- of the Senate seat from New Jersey by Wall Street investment banker Jon Corzine, a Democrat, and the Senate victory in Missouri by Gov. Mel Carnahan, two weeks after Carnahan died. (Does a dead man meet Missouri's requirement of residency?)

For now, Gore and Bush must await a process that could take several days to determine which one will move into the White House.

Hawaii elections

WITH the Honolulu mayoral election having been decided in the first round of voting in September and the three Hawaii members of Congress who were up for re-election without strong challengers, there were no major contests -- aside from the incredibly close presidential election --to draw Oahu voters to the polls yesterday.

However, there were a number of interesting races. Republicans scored modest gains in both the state House and Senate although challenger Hank Makini fell just short in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent and union favorite Brian Kanno in the 20th Senate District.

The GOP still has a long way to go to overcome decades of Democratic domination of the Legislature, but it's showing signs of life, starting with Linda Lingle's strong showing in the gubernatorial election two years ago. Continued revival of the Republican Party would be healthy for Hawaii and should be encouraged.

Name recognition demonstrated its importance with Harry Kim's easy victory in the Hawaii County mayor's race. Kim's name became a household word on the Big Island through his years of highly visible -- and effective -- service as county civil defense chief. Kim limited individual contributions to $10 each and campaigned alone, but his reputation was such that he didn't need a lot of money or help.

SIMILARLY, another newcomer to political campaigns won an easy victory thanks to name recognition. Oswald Stender was elected to a seat on the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs as a result of his courageous efforts to reform the former Bishop Estate, now Kamehameha Schools. He will be an outstanding addition to the OHA board.

These elections were also noteworthy for OHA in view of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision ending the Hawaiians-only voting restriction, which led to the acceptance of non-Hawaiian candidates.

Charles Ota of Maui, who had earlier received an interim appointment to the board of trustees by Governor Cayetano, became the first non-Hawaiian to win an OHA election. Ota's victory, in addition to the opening of OHA elections to non-Hawaiian voters, conflicts with the concept of OHA as an expression of self-determination for Hawaiians. It may strengthen the resolve of some Hawaiian activists to win recognition of Hawaiian sovereignty.

An omen of future contentiousness on the Board of Education may be seen in the victory of Carol Gabbard, who defeated incumbent Garrett Toguchi for the third Oahu at-large seat after conducting one of the most visible and expensive campaigns in BOE history. Gabbard's husband, Mike, helped lead the successful campaign against same-sex marriage in 1998. She is expected to oppose any concession to homosexuality in the schools.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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