ScrappyHawaii's Republicans made a dull election exciting and pointed the way for a new series of battles in 2002.
up isle elections
The local results point the
way toward lively state
battles in 2002
By Richard Borreca
Last night's elections, including the dramatic last-minute reversal as Democratic Sen. Brian Kanno pulled out a 79-vote win over Republican Hank Makini, are something of a warm-up act for the 2002 election.
In two years, all the state House and Senate, the governor, lieutenant governor and mayors of Kauai and Maui are up for election. On a city level, all the Council seats will be open, and if Mayor Jeremy Harris runs for governor, his seat will also be vacant.
Walter Heen, Democratic Party chairman, said the Republicans' work this year will pay off in 2002.
"They have developed attractive candidates and put their money into the campaigns, something we have been unable to do," Heen said.
This year's races failed to excite the voters. Turnout was down about 10 percentage points compared to the last presidential election, in 1996.
Maui had the lowest turnout, with only 54 percent of the voters showing up, and Kauai had the highest, with 64 percent. Four years ago, nearly 75 percent of Kauai's voters turned out.
That lack of voter interest, however, didn't stop the GOP from gaining seven new state House seats, raising the minority's total to 19 out of 51.
Of the seven House seats without an incumbent, the GOP won three. Republicans won four other House seats by knocking off incumbent Democrats.
The GOP also picked up one more state Senate seat.
"We focused on the legislative level; that is where we must expand," Lingle said last night at her Kapiolani Boulevard headquarters.
"I'm so pleased with the new people and the fact that our voters are willing to look at our new people. We had a grass-roots effort and the people listened," she said.
Gov. Ben Cayetano, serving the last two years of his second term, called the Democratic losses the fault of "self-inflicted wounds" because of problems created by Democratic officeholders.
Early on general election night, it appeared that Kanno would fail and that Democratic Sen. Carol Fukunaga was close to losing to a GOP unknown, Aaron Peterson. Both incumbents had voted against confirming Cayetano's popular Attorney General Margery Bronster, who had led the court fight to clean up the Bishop Estate.
One of the biggest victors may be Lingle, who wants to run for governor in 2002. The 57 percent increase in GOP legislative seats demonstrates Lingle can deliver.
"This augurs well for her career," Heen said.
In response the Democrat said his party will have to show that they have people in office who "can get together and work for everyone's benefit."
Lingle says the 19 Republicans in the House mean the GOP will be able to block attempts by the Democratic majority to go over the state spending ceiling and also to force bottled-up bills out of committee for floor votes.
Outgoing Kauai council paves way for newAlthough the Council race technically is nonpartisan, the party makeup of the Kauai County Council remains unchanged with five Democrats and two Republicans.
Many candidates used party labels on their campaign literature.
A retired telephone company executive, Kaipo Asing served 18 years on the Council before stepping down in 1998. He frequently was the top vote-getter and prided himself on spending absolutely no money on any of his campaigns. His sole means of campaigning has been to stand by the roadside with a sign.
Asing's ability to delay and filibuster bills he opposes has caused the lame-duck Council to schedule a vote on a new General Plan for Kauai before it leaves office at the end of this month. The drafting of the General Plan, which has been moving at a leisurely pace for the past three years, was placed in high gear.
The first General Plan vote, in a Council committee, was scheduled for today. Environmentalists, who oppose the plan because it gives approval to several planned developments, were expected to pack today's meeting.
Meanwhile, the current Council is leaving behind a decision: How to replace the county's nearly full landfill. The issue has been discussed repeatedly by the Council over the past several months, but no one has been willing to call for a vote.