Posted tagged ‘Linda Lingle’

It’s already hold-your-nose time in the Hawai‘i’s U.S. Senate race

August 5, 2011

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a couple of bizarre statements this week in Hawai‘i’s much anticipated 2012 U.S. Senate race, which so far has U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case competing on the Democratic side for a likely match against former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.

In one missive, DSCC executive director Guy Cecil scolded Case for publicizing his campaign poll that purported to show him leading Lingle while Hirono trails the Republican.

“I don’t believe Mr. Case is being honest with this poll,” Cecil said. “It exaggerates support for him and for Lingle. It also contradicts polling we have done in this race that shows Hirono leading Lingle by 19 points.”

Who knows if Case’s poll was right or not, but it was done by an established pollster in Hawai‘i and the sample was taken months apart from the DSCC survey.

In any event, using polling data to underline your message is a standard campaign tactic, and since when does the national party get involved in an intramural squabble this early in the game?

It makes you wonder how the statement came to be issued. Did Hirono go crying to the DSCC for protection? Was it U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime Case antagonist, keeping his promise to remain neutral by having a surrogate do the dirty work?

Establishment Democrats don’t seem to get it that they shoot themselves in the foot with this kind of carping.

The more Hirono seems to need the protection of “the boys,” the weaker she appears. The more the party establishment acts afraid of Case, the more moderates in the party and independent voters like him.

Equally nonsensical was a separate statement by the DSCC’s Matt Canter attacking Lingle after she dipped her toe further into the race.

“Hyper-partisan Linda Lingle is trying to hide her long record as a partisan bomb thrower in order to go to Washington and rubber stamp the extreme Republican agenda that would end Medicare and give tax breaks to oil companies,” Canter said.

Over-the-top rhetoric may sound good in Washington’s overcharged political environment, but it just doesn’t play in Hawai‘i. This was proven beyond any doubt in last year’s race in the 1st Congressional District, when similar ultra-nasty and factually dubious attacks by national Republicans against Colleen Hanabusa helped her more than hurt her.

Lingle has an eight-year record as governor that’s fair game for criticism, but trying to portray her as a bomb-throwing GOP extremist won’t resonate with most Hawai‘i voters who know better.

She has a long-established record as a moderate within her party and has been derided as a RINO — Republican in name only — by conservative advocates of the extreme-right agenda locally and nationally.

Hardly a bomb-thrower, many of her failures as governor could be traced to an excess of caution.

The more the national parties involve themselves in our 2012 Senate race, the more Hawai‘i voters will hold their noses — and last year’s CD1 race showed that’s not a good thing for the side emitting the most odor.

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.

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.

Fix system for appointing UH regents

June 21, 2011

The discussion following yesterday’s post on Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s requests for the resignations of board and commission members took a turn to the selection process for University of Hawai’i regents, so let’s stick with that for another day.

The governor used to appoint regents of his or her choosing, subject to confirmation by the Senate — similar to the process recently enacted for appointing the Board of Education.

But in a move to handcuff former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, the Legislature pushed through a constitutional amendment forcing the governor to pick regents from a list provided by a selection panel that can provide as few as two choices.

Then-UH President David McClain derided the selection panel as a “Noah’s Ark” of special interests, and the leading national organization for accrediting colleges and universities recommended strongly against the change as bad practice.

They were right and the system has been fraught with problems. In one instance, one of the two candidates provided Lingle by the selection panel withdrew and the Supreme Court ruled that she had no right to a replacement, leaving her with a single choice.

More recently, Abercrombie didn’t like the few candidates given him for two Big Island seats, but was turned down by the panel when he asked for more choices. He appointed from what he had and the Senate Education Committee rejected both nominees as ill qualified.

Defenders say the system prevents the concentration of too much power with the governor, but also complain about the sometimes low number and poor quality of applicants who send resumes to the selection panel.

We were far better off when the governor could go out and recruit qualified regents instead of being limited to the sometimes lackluster choices that the selection panel receives over the transom.

Our democratic tradition is an executive branch of government that appoints and a legislative branch that advises and consents, with ample checks and accountability on both sides.

These selection panels impose an advisory branch of government in between the governor and Legislature that only obscures the clean line of accountability that’s our best shot at keeping the system honest. Spreading the power around too thinly only guarantees that little gets done.

Lingle, Abercrombie and Senate Education Chairwoman Jill Tokuda all agree that the system for appointing UH regents is flawed and needs to be fixed.

The Legislature should attend to it next session.

Abercrombie stirs the political pot with resignation demands

June 20, 2011

Give Gov. Neil Abercrombie credit for audacity in his attempt to get resignations from former Gov. Linda Lingle’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission, Land Use Commission, Public Housing Authority, Board of Land and Natural Resources and Stadium Authority.

If they comply and allow Abercrombie to name his own people, it’ll vastly increase his control of state government and virtually wipe out any vestige of the Lingle administration.

While the governor is free to ask for the resignations, the commission members have no legal obligation to honor his wish and it remains to be seen how many will do so.

But he doesn’t really need all of them to resign, just enough to be able to appoint a new majority to the boards — or even get him closer to a majority. Most of the terms at issue will expire by 2014.

Abercrombie’s request is unprecedented — neither Lingle nor Ben Cayetano before him asked for mass resignations — and it seems to fly in the face of longstanding state policy on boards and commissions, which is to stagger terms to encourage stability and orderly succession to prevent exactly the kind of abrubt political shift Abercrombie is seeking.

But the Democrats who made those rules expected endless successions from one Democratic governor to another and didn’t count on a Republican like Lingle getting in the mix.

I have no inside dope on how those asked to resign will respond, but for most I suspect it’ll be along the lines of the two-word letter Abercrombie was noted for sending out as a legislator.

If you don’t remember what those two words were, you can find a clue in the famous cheer by Country Joe at Woodstock: “Gimme an F … “

Budget writers may target tax refunds

March 29, 2011

I can’t see getting too exercised about reports that the Abercrombie administration is backtracking on vows not to follow Linda Lingle’s example and kick state income tax refunds into the new fiscal year to reduce this year’s deficit.

Yeah, Gov. Neil Abercrombie earlier derided Lingle’s policy and said that to follow suit would only extend the pain to taxpayers that she caused.

But the fact is that there were few reports of serious hardship caused by last year’s delay, and doing it again may be the least disruptive way to deal with a budget deficit for the remainder of this year that is suddenly more than $230 million after the economic fallout from the Japan crisis.

Delaying refunds again would keep us in a hole and at some point we’re going to have to bite the bullet and get tax refunds back on the usual schedule, but there’s a fair argument that it’s best done in a rebound year when we have a more robust revenue stream to cushion the cost.

Administration budgeters say delaying refunds isn’t their first choice for making up the revenue slide and if they come up with better ideas, that’s fine. But it’s not an unreasonable option to keep open if it looks to be the least painful way out of this fiscal year.

Public housing agency seeks ethics waiver for finance job

February 7, 2011

Linda Smith, senior policy adviser to former Gov. Linda Lingle, has apparently moved into a new position as financial adviser to the Hawai‘i Public Housing Authority, on whose board of directors she served as the governor’s representative.

HPHA is maintaining silence on the matter, with several messages requesting information from executive director Denise Wise and Smith going unanswered. Sources who deal with the agency say Smith has been working there since last month.

HPHA advertised in the fall for a chief financial management adviser, setting a Nov. 4 deadline for applications and listing a salary of $80,000.

Les Kondo, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, confirmed that Smith subsequently asked for advice on whether it would violate the ethics code if she moved from the board of directors to a staff position. She was advised that state statute didn’t prohibit her from taking the position.

However, Kondo said the ethics office is taking another look at the matter after receiving a new request from HPHA last week for a formal waiver to satisfy the federal government, which appears to be paying part of the salary. Kondo said the waiver request had new information about the timing of the move from one position to the other.

At their December 16 meeting, HPHA directors went into executive session to discuss a motion “to approve a waiver from the conflict of interest provisions of Sections 19(A) of the annual contributions contract between the Hawaii Public Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the Chief Financial Management Advisor position.”

Directors said the closed meeting was necessary to consult with attorneys on the board’s “powers, duties, privileges, immunities and liabilities” relating to the waiver. After the executive session, the board unanimously approved the waiver without discussion.

The HPHA board is chaired by retired Boeing executive Travis Thompson, one of Lingle’s closest allies as her finance director on Maui, her transition chief when she was elected governor and a major donor to local and national Republican campaigns.

Lingle’s failed legacy

December 7, 2010

I’ve been asked why I didn’t join in analyzing the legacy of outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle. In all honesty, I don’t think she’s left one that will be judged of much significance.

I hate to be uncharitable, but 25 years from now, I doubt that the Republican Lingle’s eight-year break from Democratic rule will be remembered much more than Eileen Anderson’s brief stint as Honolulu mayor between Frank Fasi’s two extended terms.

Lingle has taken much criticism for not extending coattails to other local Republicans, saying it wasn’t her job to get GOP lawmakers elected.

The number of Republicans in the state House fell from 19 to seven and in the Senate from five to one while Lingle was busy padding her own nest in national GOP politics by spending more time than any other governor from either party out of state on the presidential campaign trail.

Lingle didn’t understand — or didn’t care — that her only chance of shaping state policy and changing Hawai‘i’s political culture was to break the Democratic super-majority in the Legislature in order to force her bills to the floor and have her vetoes sustained. Without that leverage, the Democrats could, and did, walk over her at will.

You don’t have to be a Republican to see the value of a healthy political balance.

I thought one of the most astute assessments of Lingle’s failed legacy was made by former Democratic Gov. John Waihee in a Star-Advertiser story by Derrick DePledge:

Waihee said Lingle’s biggest missed opportunity was the chance to lay the groundwork for a true two-party system. Despite Lingle’s historic victory in 2002 and her sweep to re-election in 2006, Republicans have lost seats in the Legislature and appear weaker as a party than before she was elected.

Waihee said Lingle — a moderate on social issues, more conservative on fiscal policy — could have helped create a Hawaii Republican brand. Instead, he said, she gravitated toward the kind of mainland conservatism that has proved unpopular in the islands and “ended up, at the end of her term, palling around with (former Alaska Gov. Sarah) Palin.”

“She really didn’t define what a Hawaii Republican would be like,” he said. “And, actually, I think that’s a loss for the entire state. She started off very committed to building a two-party system, but she ended up with it being more one-party than ever.”

Lingle: Out of favor, but not out of ambition

October 26, 2010

I agree with analysts who say that Gov. Linda Lingle’s low public approval rating is mostly the result of the crushing recession and its side effects such as furlough Fridays.

If you look at the eight-year fever chart of her popularity in the polls, it soared when the economy was up and sank when Hawai‘i’s economic fortunes dipped — just like Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano before her.

I don’t necessarily agree with those who think Lingle’s standing with voters will swing back up once she leaves office and is out of the line of fire, which is a key factor in how credibly she could contend for Sen. Daniel Akaka’s seat in 2012.

We’re a politically contentious state and Hawai‘i governors, who are in the middle of it all, tend to wear out their welcome after eight years. And the lost favorability doesn’t always come back with the passage of time.

Waihee was interested in running for the 2nd Congressional District seat after Patsy Mink died in 2002, but polls showed that his favorability with voters was still so low eight years after he’d left office that the race wasn’t feasible.

Lingle, whose approval rating was a dismal 44 percent in the latest Star-Advertiser poll, would be trying the turnaround in only two years if she follows through on her expressed interest in looking at the Akaka seat.

A candidate’s approval rating is relative to the opponent’s, of course. Akaka’s favorability was solid when he defeated Ed Case in 2006, but it remains to be seen if it’ll hold up with his age even more of an issue this time.

It’s a delicate matter, but there are legitimate concerns that having two 88-year-old senators sets up Hawai‘i  for a punishing nosedive in federal spending here when they pass from the scene and leave Hawai‘i with no senator of any seniority.

If Akaka steps aside, Democrats who likely would run against Lingle such as Case and Mufi Hannemann are coming off big losses and have favorability problems of their own.


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