Gov. Linda Lingle talked with Sen. Colleen Hanabusa yesterday at the state Capitol in a door-to-door effort to garner votes for judicial nominee Ted Hong.

Lingle mounts final
effort for Hong

Senate President Robert Bunda said today's vote on the confirmation of Ted Hong as a Hilo Circuit Court judge is too close to call.

Gov. Linda Lingle headed a lobbying effort yesterday, going door to door to support Hong, her chief of collective bargaining and an interim University of Hawaii regent.

"It is definitely a controversial appointment," said Democrat Willie Espero, who is undecided. "I have been leaning one way, but I don't want to say.

"My only prediction is that it will be close," said Espero (D, Ewa-Kapolei).

Bunda (D, Kaena-Wahiawa-Pupukea) said he will vote for Hong.

Hong's nomination survived a vote Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee after eight hours of debate.

"I think we have a good chance; we just have to work hard. We believe in him so much -- this is not a casual appointment," Lingle said yesterday morning as she made the rounds of Senate Democrats.

"I told them I thought the testimony at the hearing painted a very fair picture of Ted. I don't give any weight to the bar association position because of the thorough job that had been done by the Judicial Selection Commission," Lingle said of her argument to lawmakers.

The Judiciary Committee report supporting Hong noted that 98 attorneys and 292 others sent in testimony supporting Hong, while one attorney and 20 other people opposed the nomination.

The bar association board of directors, after a closed-door session to debate anonymous comments from members, had said Hong was unqualified to serve. But Lingle and other Hong supporters, including Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua), said the bar association process was flawed and not as thorough as the investigation performed by the Judicial Selection Commission, which supported Hong and five other candidates.

Lingle also criticized Sen. Lorraine Inouye (D, Hilo-Honokaa) because she paid the air fare for a Hilo resident, Del Pranke, a longtime critic of Hong, to appear at the Wednesday confirmation hearing.

"I know she (Inouye) is leading a lot of the opposition and is now willing to pay people to come down ... and (to) defame someone and use false information is very serious, and people like that should be discounted," Lingle said.

Pranke alleged that Hong had participated in improper Hawaii County meetings about former Big Island police Chief Wayne Carvalho. Hong said he was not at the meetings, and a Hilo newspaper search of the records could not find any instance of Hong attending.

Inouye acknowledged yesterday that she paid for Pranke to attend the Senate hearing, but said she used her own money for the trip.

"I said, 'If you really want to come, I'll pay for it,'" Inouye said. "I just wanted to refresh everyone's memory of politics in Hilo. There is a division, there is strong pro-Hong testimony, but that wasn't the sense of the community."

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings (R, Waimanalo-Kailua) said all five Senate GOP senators would support Hong.

"For reasonable legislators it is a definite asset to have the governor come down and be an advocate," Hemmings said.


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