Richar Borreca

On Politics

By Richard Borreca

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Competition in primary is
Lingle’s gain

When Linda Lingle stops to give thanks this holiday week, it would be wise for her to offer a small "thank you" to John Carroll for running against her in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Lingle was in need of a tune-up before the general election main event, and Carroll provides that.

Carroll, a former state legislator and GOP chairman, has been an overachiever his whole life, but in this race against the Republican's brightest star in 30 years, Carroll is decidedly overmatched.

Three years ago an equally overmatched Frank Fasi ran against Lingle in the GOP primary. It so inflamed both rank-and-file Republicans and Lingle supporters that the former Maui mayor picked up more votes than Gov. Ben Cayetano did in his primary election.

In 1998, Cayetano, who was running unopposed, had little reason to draw a lot of votes in the primary, but for more voters to actually vote in the GOP primary was unprecedented.

It also provided Lingle with an opportunity to firm up her support, organize the troops and practice running a statewide campaign against an underwhelming opponent -- the perfect tune-up match.

There's an argument to be made that she needs the same sort of setup match next year.

Even Lingle's supporters acknowledge that the Democratic primary race for governor will consume much of the television and newspaper time next year. Also, the Honolulu mayor's race will be fought in the primary election.

And finally, there is likely to be a contested Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. So with three major races and a good dozen candidates brawling everyday, how is Lingle to get campaign coverage?

Before Carroll entered the race, Lingle had the GOP primary all to herself. That sounds good, but, when measured against the volatile Democratic primary, it would have been likely that Lingle would be spending a lonely fall waiting for the primary election smoke to clear before she could gather free airtime.

In past elections, Carroll has been an attractive candidate, a former University of Hawaii football player, jet fighter pilot, successful attorney, amateur athlete and businessman. Carroll brings a good resume to the race.

He is also a strong conservative who triggered a controversy last year when he filed suit against the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

While running as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate last October, Carroll sued to stop state revenue payments to OHA. Carroll also claimed OHA denied him access to programs because he was not Hawaiian.

The issue is not yet resolved, but it was interpreted as an attack against native Hawaiians and Carroll was forced to run commercials during his campaign proclaiming that he is "not a racist."

For Lingle, the chance to run against Carroll is a chance to snap up some free press by elaborating on her native Hawaiian rights platform and to separate herself from the conservative right factions in the party.

Since becoming GOP chairwoman, Lingle has preached moderation and compromise. Now she has a chance to extend the discussion from within the party to the voters.

Some might argue that another Republican, D.G. "Andy" Anderson is also something of a tune-up match for Mayor Jeremy Harris in the Democratic primary. After all, it has been nearly 20 years since Anderson, a former state senator, won an elective office, and Harris' race for governor comes off a successful mayor's race last year.

But the difference is that Anderson has already picked up some influential party backing and is expected to get public employee union support. If that support materializes, Harris will have to turn up his campaign and not simply look for a tune-up game.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at

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