Election 2002

Moku Konanui, voting chairman at Noelani School in Manoa, offers doughnuts to early-morning voters.

Victory forecasts
aside, it’s all up
to the voters

Voters line up early at polls, but it's
too soon to tell whether Hawaii's
low voter turnout will be reversed

ACLU loses bid to prevent vote count
Gabbard campaign brochure draws protests

By Helen Altonn and Richard Borreca |

After months of political rhetoric, voters have the last word today.

Under a clear sky and a slight early-morning drizzle, voters began streaming to the polls that opened at 7 a.m. Early birds were lined up and waiting for the doors to open at some precincts, but it was too soon to predict if Hawaii would reverse its historical low-voter turnout.

"We haven't taken our first dip stick yet," Office of Elections spokesman Rex Quidilla said early today. "Right now our concern is to make sure these precincts are up and operational."

Except for minor problems, "it appears to be a very smooth morning," Quidilla said.

The Democratic Party headquarters said no problems were reported from precincts by poll-watchers.

Minor glitches were called into the Republican Party headquarters, such as a missing box at a Hilo precinct turning up in Waianae.

Some polling places were short of workers because of no-shows. Usually there is a 10 to 15 percent drop-off in workers, Quidilla said, requiring people to do double-duty where that occurs.

He said four machines had to be swapped at different precincts but they were "up and running real quick."

Otherwise, he said, "It's going good."

Yesterday, as the campaign for control of Hawaii's governorship and Legislature wound down, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and Republican Linda Lingle were both predicting victory.

Hirono said a campaign heavy with neighbor-island grass-roots supporters will be her victory margin.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mazie Hirono greeted the crowd last night at Hilo's Mooheau Park bandstand during the Democratic Party Grand Rally. A step behind her is her husband, Leighton Oshima.

"I am very optimistic that our positive message and our grass-roots campaign will win the day," Hirono said yesterday as she campaigned at Moiliili Community Center.

Lingle, however, said she feels a new surge of support after the Office of Hawaiian Affairs debate last Friday.

"Part of it was my emotions were running very high," she said. "It was already clear we were talking on two different levels. They (Hirono and her running mate, Sen. Matt Matsunaga) were quoting legal cases and we were talking from our hearts about the injustices."

Lingle added: "I can't think of another point that you could turn to that people would say 'OK, this is different.' "

However, a spokeswoman for Hirono, Barbara Tanabe, said Hirono also felt very good about that debate. "I don't think the OHA debate was a defining moment," Tanabe said.

During the debates, Lingle was suffering from a severely pulled calf muscle, caused while walking in her apartment earlier. Her leg was wrapped in a bandage and, according to staff members, it was painful for her to walk.

"You can hardly tell she is favoring it," Lloyd Yonenaka, Lingle's press secretary, said.

Republican candidates Linda Lingle and Duke Aiona worked the crowd last night at the Food Court at the Ala Moana Center on the last night of campaigning before today's general election.

Despite that, Lingle spent yesterday campaigning across downtown Honolulu, walking through offices and shaking hands. Hirono spent the morning doing similar walks and then flew to Hilo.

Speaking at the Democratic Party Grand Rally in Hilo's Mooheau Park last night, Hirono warned against "reckless change."

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, speaking at the Hilo event with U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka, also warned against change coming from Republicans. "The change they're talking about is going to take us backward," he said.

Hirono suggested that Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, a nominal Republican, favored her candidacy.

"He said, 'Mazie, you are the person Hawaii needs,'" she told the crowd.

Reached at his home, Kim denied making the statement.

"I'm going to be glad when this election is over," he said.

Today, Lingle plans to board a campaign bus to circle the island and encourage her supporters.

Hirono will vote at 11 a.m., then prepare for the election returns tonight.

Meanwhile, both Democratic and Republican leaders say the push for control of the state House will rely on getting voters to turn out.

As candidates campaigns began to wind down, students got to cast teir vote yesterday during a "Kids Voting Hawaii" rally at King Intermediate School in Kaneohe. From left, Teresa Kahookele, Justin Ryder and Kanoe Medina showed off their Kids Voting Hawaii tokens, or registration cards. Kahookele and Ryder have already voted and Medina is waiting until today to vote.

Public school teacher Corinne Ching and attorney Jennifer Waihee are doing all they can to get their people to the polls.

Republican Ching and Democrat Waihee are vying to represent Liliha and Nuuanu in the 27th District, the seat vacated by Rep. Lei Ahu Isa.

Their race epitomizes Republican hopes to gain a majority of seats in the 51-member state House and the Democrats' attempt to stave off a GOP attack. Two years ago, 19 Republicans were elected to the House.

"We're calling a lot of our supporters," Ching said. "We'll have a message go out on the phone to remind people how sincerely I would like to represent this district and that every vote counts."

Ching says she knows firsthand how important it is to get the vote out. In 1998, Ching lost by 19 votes to Ahu Isa.

"Right now there's a lot of walking still, a lot of sign-holding and a lot of call-making," said Waihee, the daughter of the former governor. "(The campaign's) been going pretty good. A lot of work. I got a tan -- it's a shirt tan. I don't think I would've gotten one if I stayed in my office all the time."

Republicans also hope to increase numbers in the Senate. Observers say GOP senators could go from the current three to as many as seven.

Star-Bulletin writers Crystal Kua, Pat Omandam and Rod Thompson contributed to this report.

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