Posted tagged ‘election2012’

A peek at Lingle’s Senate strategy

August 1, 2011

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle is still coy on whether she’ll run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Daniel Akaka next year, but in a speech last week she gave clues to the strategy she’ll follow if she takes the plunge.

According to a report by Derrick DePledge in the Star-Advertiser, she’s aligning herself with a group of former governors from both parties who have been a moderating force in the Senate.

“Governors bring a particularly different approach in the United States Senate than those people who have come just from the legislative side,” Lingle, who is considering a Senate campaign, told a luncheon sponsored by the conservative Grassroot Institute of Hawaii at the Japanese Cultural Center.

“They are less ideological. They are more practical. They are more agenda driven. They are able to put forth something they’d like to achieve and then move to do it because as governor you have to. You can’t hide behind a lot of other people.”

In other words, she’ll argue she can give Hawai‘i a voice in the Republican caucus that seems on the ascent in Congress, while at the same time working to moderate the strident conservatism of the GOP caucus that alienates many voters in this strongly Democratic state.

It’s similar to the strategy she followed in 2002 to become Hawai‘i’s first Republican governor in 40 years, de-fanging her Republicanism enough to successfully compete for moderate Democrats and independents in defeating then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, now a congresswoman who is running for the Senate.

The other Democrat who has announced for the Senate is former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, another veteran of the 2002 governor’s race who will argue that he’s better positioned than Hirono to hold the moderate Democrats and independents against Lingle.

Of course, much has changed since 2002; Lingle served eight controversial years as governor while Hirono has served quietly in Congress and avoided controversy. Case is still fighting the demons from his ill-timed run against Akaka in 2006.

Lingle has been enough of an ideological chameleon that she can portray herself anywhere on the spectrum she wants.

She campaigned for conservatives such as former president George W. Bush and the 2008 ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin, but has avoided embracing either the tea party agenda or the social agenda of the religious right.

On local issues, she’s also hard to pin down. She supported the Akaka bill hated by conservatives, but opposed the latest version that contains amendments proposed by the Obama administration. She let the excise tax for O‘ahu rail become law, but held up the project with a lengthy review of the environmental impact statement. She vetoed civil unions, but was careful not to join conservatives in demonizing gay couples.

She’s shown a talent in previous campaigns for framing the issues around her strengths, and Democrats would make a mistake to take her lightly because of early polls showing her far behind.

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A U.S. Senate race for the ages

July 26, 2011

Somebody asked why I didn’t mention Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz yesterday when I ran down the list of possible candidates for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

Schatz has been included in the early speculation and he hasn’t said no, but a candidacy looks highly unlikely with initial polls showing that it would be an uphill battle for him.

The lieutenant governor wouldn’t have to resign to run for a federal office, but a weak showing in the Democratic primary would severely damage his personal political capital and could also be read as a repudiation of the Abercrombie administration.

Schatz has set himself up nicely to try to climb the political ladder to governor, and he’s not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of guy who would risk it to enter a crowded Senate race as an underdog.

In one regard — age — Schatz would make sense as Hawai‘i’s next senator.

It takes time to build seniority in the Senate and Schatz, who turns 40 next year, would be about the same age as Daniel Inouye was when he was first elected to the Senate and started amassing the seniority that has served Hawai‘i so well.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, considered by some to be the Democratic frontrunner, would be 65 when inaugurated — about the same age as Akaka was when he was first appointed to the Senate. Some 20 years later with his age a concern at 86, Akaka still only has enough seniority to chair a relatively minor committee.

Of the other potential Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa would be 61 next year, former Rep. Ed Case 60 and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 58. The likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Linda Lingle would be 59.

Schatz could serve two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as governor and still run for the Senate at a younger age than any of the others are now, which says tons about the graying of Hawai‘i’s political leadership.

Hanabusa looking like a House candidate

July 25, 2011

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s new fundraising missive seems a pretty clear sign that she’ll defend her House seat next year rather than jump into the cowded race for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

An e-mail soliciting funds for her 2012 campaign didn’t exactly specify what office Hanabusa is seeking and she’s said she won’t make a formal decision until August, but the tone was clearly House-oriented.

She accused Speaker John Boehner and the Republican House majority of endangering Social Security, cutting health care, subsidizing big oil and threatening to shut down the government.

“Just imagine what Republicans will try if they control Congress in 2012,” she said. “I need your help to prevent that from happening.”

Hanabusa’s fellow U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case have entered the Senate Democratic primary and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is also looking at the primary in which the winner will likely face former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

Hanabusa let Hirono beat her to the punch, and the conventional wisdom is that two liberal women would split votes and throw the advantage to the moderate Case. If Hannemann turns the race four-way, it could become a crap shoot.

Hanabusa’s safe course would be to keep the House seat that took three tries to win and wait to run for the Senate when 86-year-old Sen. Daniel Inouye retires.

But it’s the winner of the Akaka seat who will ultimately succeed Inouye as the state’s senior senator, and the deciding issue could come down to which candidate voters see as best qualified to to pick up the heavy lifting Inouye has long provided in bringing home the bacon for Hawai‘i.

It would be ironic if Hanabusa ends up the odd candidate out, as she has the most proven record of the group as a legislative heavy-lifter.

In her 12 years in the state Senate, she held every major leadership position and was the first woman to serve as Senate president. She knows how to work the levers of legislative power.

Case influenced major legislation in the state House and rose to majority leader, but the leadership role didn’t suit him and he stepped down after only two years to operate as a dissident.

Hirono was never considered a major player during her years in the Legislature, and none of the three has served in Congress long enough to leave a significant mark.

For Hannemann and Lingle, the only legislative experience was at the county council level, where both were viewed as more interested in priming their runs for mayor than doing legislative grunt work.

O‘ahu, Big Isle wrestle for Senate seat

June 14, 2011

One of the biggest hot potatoes facing the state Reapportionment Commission is whether to count some 70,000 nonresident military personnel and dependents who can’t vote in setting legislative district lines.

Hawai‘i is currently one of only two states that don’t count them, along with Kansas, and the commission is taking another look at the issue.

The ramifications are significant: If nonresident military continue not to be counted, O‘ahu will likely lose a state Senate seat to the fast-growing Big Island, which would go from three senators to four.

But if the commission changes policy and counts military who can’t vote, the seat would likely be saved for O‘ahu, where most of them are based.

Counting the nonresident military could also give the state’s moribund Republican Party a slight boost by creating more districts around military bases, where voters tend to be a little more to the right.

Veterans groups are pressuring the panel to show the troops the respect of counting them even though they can’t vote here, as the federal government requires in setting congressional districts.

Some on O‘ahu are rallying around the idea as a way keeping the Senate seat on the island, but Big Islanders naturally take umbrage at a rules change that would deny them the additional Senate seat they feel they’re entitled to by an honest count of eligible resident voters.

Counting those who can’t vote, they say, leaves us with a skewed Legislature that doesn’t truly represent the electorate.

As one of my old friends in Hilo colorfully put it, “I do not know if I am
to grab my ankles now or a little later.”


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