Richard Borreca

On Politics


Questions loom in 2003
for Lingle and Democrats

It may have been Yogi Berra who first said, "It is tough to make predictions, especially about the future." The news media, however, are a special case.

Reporters may know better than to make predictions, but they have no such cautions when it comes to raising questions about the future.

The No. 1 question for the media is, how long will the Gov. Linda Lingle honeymoon last?

Without doubt, Lingle's landslide victory in November was the biggest political story of the decade. She went from a Joan of Arc battling the Democratic establishment in 1998 to a smoothly competent front-runner in 2002, who learned from her mistakes to blow out the Democrats on their own turf.

In doing so, Lingle dominated the state's television and print news media. With a savvy campaign team, she was carefully controlled in one favorable event after another.

While the press loves to build up political giants, it is just as fond of tearing them down, so there is a question about how long Lingle will continue to get good press.

The challenges for Lingle will only grow as the state's budget continues to contract. If the United States attacks Iraq, air travel to Hawaii will shrink. If the real estate boom turns out to be a bubble, the contraction will continue, and the economy will remain tight if United, the airline that brings the most people to Hawaii, continues to sputter.

Adding to those economic tensions will be the demands for public employee pay raises.

As a companion to the Lingle question, the Democrats will have to answer one of their own: Who will run against Lingle in 2006? Today the state Democratic Party is more a collection of rival principalities than a functioning unit with a coherent philosophy or center. With no one leader strong enough to seize control or rebuff potential challengers, the Democrats will have a difficult time coming up with a viable candidate.

The Legislature is the most likely place to attract political attention, but few Democratic legislators will have the stature or the cash needed to compete against an incumbent governor.

In the past, Honolulu Hale has been a natural breeding ground for statewide political candidates, but with Mayor Jeremy Harris still ducking the news media as his administration is nibbled to death by grand jury investigations, Harris appears to be out of the gubernatorial sweepstakes. So far, he seems to be handling the last two years of his final mayoral term by press release. He communicates by fax and through controlled and sanitized events.

And that raises the big political question of 2003: When is Jeremy Harris going to hold an open-ended news conference?

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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