Political ads
aim at voters
on fence

Lingle and Hirono launch
media blitzes in a quest to woo
the crucial undecided 18%

Key races to set control of House
Testers say voting machines ready
Arroyo photo draws fire
Chamber of Commerce survey

By Richard Borreca

Both candidates for governor in this year's hard-fought campaign are furiously buying up airtime and newsprint to get their messages out, as they sprint to the finish on Tuesday.

Election 2002

Both Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and Republican Linda Lingle are pouring as much time and money as they can afford into the last-minute campaign to woo the state's block of undecided voters, estimated at 18 percent of the electorate.

The Hirono campaign is hoping that a new two-minute commercial featuring a soft-sell biography of Hirono will be most effective, while the Lingle campaign plans to mix soft commercials with a more hard-hitting ending.

"We have a new batch of ads that are coming out in these last few days," Kitty Lagareta, a Lingle campaign spokeswoman, said.

"Some are going to be positive, and some are going to be extremely hard-hitting and hold Mazie accountable for her record of underachievement," Lagareta said.

Hirono's message, according to Bob Toyofuku, her campaign manager, will emphasize that Hirono has had the experience to be governor.

"She is showing the viewers that she has the trust and the integrity," Toyofuku said.

"None of our ads have attacked Lingle or the Republicans. Our ads are about the economy and education," Toyofuku added.

Both campaigns have allowed the tough attack ads to be sponsored by either the political parties or by support groups. The ILWU, for instance has helped Hirono by running attack commercials against Lingle.

Hirono's campaign has also been helped by the late entry of campaign and media advisor Jack Seigle. Seigle, who successfully steered the campaigns of every Democratic governor from John Burns to Ben Cayetano, has been living in Colombia since last year and has not been involved in local politics until now.

"Basically, we have been working via e-mail," Toyofuku said. "He is a great help in giving me insights on the media and the campaign strategy."

The media strategy in the closing days of a campaign for both camps may not be all that illuminating, according to media experts. Helen Varner, dean of the Hawaii Pacific University College of Communications, worries that both campaigns are moving to negative campaigning as a way to grab the attention of some undecided voters.

"Most voters want to see advertising that gives them a reason to vote; what we are seeing is why we should not vote," Varner said.

The last-minute attack, however, has become a staple of political campaigning, according to Bruce Altschuler, chairman of the political science department at State University of New York and the author of four books on political advertising.

"Last-minute attacks have often included some of the most scurrilous of smears largely because there is not enough time for rebuttal," Altschuler said.

Also, last-minute negative ads, according to studies, tend to cut down the number of voters who will go to the polls.

Varner agrees, adding that campaigns have to produce a dramatic commercial to move the voters.

"That is why you have (former President Bill) Clinton, (former New York City Mayor Rudolph) Giuliani and Konishiki all in the campaigns," Varner said.

"Hirono is hoping that a little of Clinton's prestige will rub off on her, and Lingle is hoping that some of the hero worship we have for Rudy Giuliani will rub off on her," Varner said.

E-mail to City Desk


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