Richard Borreca

On Politics


The party’s
almost over

This is one campaign I'm going to miss. Sure, all campaigns stir up us political junkies, but this one feels like it has become part of the family.

Like a parent examining a child's first report card, we have weighed each plus and minus, examining the issues and picking over every candidate. By now, fretting about the 2002 governor's race has been almost a pleasant torture.

In many ways, the campaign started only a few days after Linda Lingle lost her race four years ago. Instead of politely saying her thank yous and exiting the stage, Lingle climbed right back up and held mahalo rallies around the state.

There was no doubt that Lingle was still running; the sprint to the state Capitol was to become a marathon.

Democrats reacted to what was to be a four-year siege on the establishment in two ways: First, old-timers announced that no message had been sent by the voters, nobody was pounding on the door and everything was just as safe as it always was -- just don't walk around outside alone.

And second, another camp pushed in the clutch pedal and slipped a massive campaign apparatus into gear. The Harris campaign was under way.

Job One for Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris wasn't the race for governor, but winning re-election. He ran up an early lead by raising more than a million dollars and slapped new tires on the City Hall campaign machine. Winning re-election was easy and just a warm-up for the main event.

While Harris was climbing up to Democratic front-runner status, the GOP was being transformed by Lingle into a viable second party. She took over the party and inserted much of her campaign staff as GOP workers. With Lingle's encouragement, the state House grew to 19 Republicans, a statehood record.

As the Harris campaign machine whirred along, picking up supporters and arranging city construction projects and a constant stream of favorable publicity, the Campaign Spending Commission tossed a broom stick into the gear box. With grand jury investigations looming, subpoenas flying and fund-raising halted, the Harris campaign jerked to a stop just before the spring Democratic convention. A tainted Harris was out of the race.

Mazie Hirono, who was languishing without money or much organized support, jumped back into the race for governor that she had abandoned months before. As the lieutenant governor, Hirono was the direct lineal successor to the governorship and would continue an unbroken, 40-year Democratic reign.

But those plans were nearly upset by a straight-talking maverick state representative, Ed Case, who came within 2,603 votes of beating Hirono in the Democratic primary.

Now is this a race to love, or what? The speculation and mystery intensified with the tragic death of Democratic U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, but now the race has shifted back to the gubernatorial center stage and Tuesday's Lingle-Hirono showdown.

I'll miss this one, but if there's a January race for Congress, a New Year's campaign sprint does have a certain charm.

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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