Richard Borreca

On Politics


Hawaii pols log on to
high-tech campaigning

For people who are still somewhat in awe of the fax machine, Hawaii's politicians are starting to not only embrace the Internet, but trying to make it do what they really want: get elected.

Election 2002

As a whole, Hawaii's political establishment, like the state's other institutions, is behind the curve in adapting to high-technology. For instance, just this week a report from the Milken Institute ranked Hawaii among the worst-prepared states to succeed in the information age.

Oddly, that comes from a state led by a governor who, if his e-mails are any indication, appears to spend most of the morning, afternoon, evening and late night firing off missives through the electronic ether.

Four years ago, the Internet was mostly a campaign toy in Hawaii. Candidates for governor Ben Cayetano and Linda Lingle had Web pages, with Lingle seeming a bit more advanced because she was posting updates and some static pictures.

This year Republican Lingle was first out of the gate with a spiffed-up Web page that posts a daily calendar and breaking news from her campaign. When she gave a campaign-defining speech at the GOP convention, it was on the Internet just hours after delivery.

Democratic challenger Rep. Ed Case, the cousin of AOL magnate Steve Case, had been working the e-mail circuit for years in the House and was ready with his own Web page. In fact, the first acknowledgement of his campaign was an early morning e-mail to reporters and editors across the state.

As his campaign started to move, Case's Web page steadily grew in both content and sophistication until it surpassed Lingle's in the number of new features added, almost daily.

Perhaps the Case tour de force was posting a laudatory speech by U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye on the Internet. Case also conducted two 90-minute live Internet chats on his Web site. Supporters could call or e-mail questions that Case would answer on a Web-television broadcast. Even Case's own campaign staff marveled that some supporters watched a live talking head for the entire evening.

Another highly wired politician in the primary was Republican lieutenant governor candidate Dalton Tanonaka, who says the Internet was an integral part of his campaign strategy. Tanonaka said he tried to have the Web site updated nearly every day, including videos of his speeches. Adding to the high-tech gloss of the campaign, Tanonaka had CD-ROMs made of his performance in a televised debate and passed out copies during his public appearances.

The cautionary part of this tale rests with campaign experts, such as Curtis Gans with the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, who says that instead of giving voters increased access to politicians, the Internet just lets pols talk to the already converted.

Then again, no one has disproved the axiom: "To err is human, but to really screw things up you need a computer."

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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