[ OUR OPINION ]
In elections, the more
choices the merrier
WITH only six candidates unopposed in state legislative races this year, Hawaii voters can look forward to an election season in which more aspirants will have to compete to win ballots.
Political parties are fielding candidates in most of the races for state legislative seats this election.
Unlike in previous elections, voters will have choices -- in some districts, from more than two hopefuls -- but with that comes a duty to study the issues and examine the merits of those seeking public office. Selecting a candidate merely through party affiliation or name recognition nullifies the value of choice.
With the revival of the Republican Party, led primarily by Governor Lingle, the once-stagnant GOP this year has managed to field candidates for all but five of the 63 seats in state House and Senate races. The dominant Democratic Party is allowing only one Republican a free ride.
The situation, which stands in contrast to the legislative election two years ago when 13 candidates breezed into the State Capitol unopposed, is the result of Lingle's efforts to capture control of the House or, failing that, garner at least enough Republican supporters there to block overrides of her vetoes.
Since winning the governor's office in 2002, Lingle has sought to boost her party's power and profile in a state that had been long held by Democrats. For decades, even those who had not closely conformed to the Democrats' agenda ran under the party's banner, acknowledging that an "R" next to their name on the ballot would hobble their candidacy. Thus, those who called themselves Democrats stretched through a spectrum of political persuasions.
Lingle has whipped newcomers, disgruntled Democrats and independent voters as well as dormant Republicans into a potent formula to stir up Hawaii's political brew. However, with the state Legislature held by Democrats, she has had to battle hard to push her propositions, and gaining GOP members would certainly ease her way.
Even so, party labels should not be the dominant factor when voters punch their ballots. Like Democrats, Republicans come in all shapes and sizes. In addition, other parties, such as the Greens and Libertarians, are fielding candidates who deserve consideration.
More importantly, the Legislature should not be a rubber stamp for a governor. Even though Ben Cayetano was a Democrat, lawmakers did not blindly sign off on all of his programs during his tenure as governor.
The executive and legislative branches provide a balance that too often is tilted when politicians forget that voters -- not party allegiances -- come first. By the same token, voters owe candidates a deeper look than a street-corner sign with a name and party's tag.