A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
Democrats Need to Remember Hawaii
April 22, 2002
I offer my gratitude to BuzzFlash for continuing to monitor the efforts of GOP conservatives, and especially its radical right wing, both here and abroad.
However, please don't forget us out here in Hawaii, 5,000 miles from Washington. Politically, we're all too often "out of sight, out of mind" for most Americans, and especially Democrats, who have tended to take our state for granted.
But this year, the GOP is planning on spending millions out here on the governor's race, as well as directing substantial monies to state legislative contests. Please note the following articles from U.S. media:
Cook Political Report (December 20, 2001--Scroll down two-thirds of
"And Republican hopes in the Democratic stronghold of Hawaii have never been better. GOP state chair and 1998 gubernatorial nominee Linda Lingle never stopped running since almost upsetting Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano that year. Now he's leaving office after years of bad press and a damaged state economy. Lingle will have a primary challenge from former state GOP chair John Carroll, but she looks as strong as ever.
"And there's been some movement on the Democratic side of the contest. Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono dropped out of the race while former Republican state Sen. Andy Anderson, who ran for Governor in 1982 and 1986 as a Republican, is talking about running for the Democratic nomination next year. Democrats are most focused on Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris as their likely nominee, but he'll have his work cut out for him next year as Republicans are sure to mine the time for a change argument after years of stories about Democratic corruption.
"If an argument for reform should work anywhere next year, it's most likely to find traction here. This is a big opportunity race for the GOP."
Post (Scroll down article):
Media Analysis Group--Nov. 2001 (pdf file--page 6):
"After 36 years of Democratic governors, the tide of support appears to be rolling in the direction of the Republicans. Governor Cayetano squeaked past ex-Maui Mayor Linda Lingle with a mere 5,254 votes in 1998. Lingle will undoubtedly emerge as the frontrunner since Governor Cayetano is not eligible for re-election."
Why should progressive activists and Democrats care about what happens out here in the islands? What would the prospect of possible electoral success in Hawaii have to offer the Republicans on the country's national political stage? At first glance, it doesn't appear to be much, until one considers two important and interrelated points.
First is the GOP's control of Congress. Because the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is razor-thin at this point, control of that body can swing either way with only a handful of seats changing hands. Once-promising designs on the seat held by Honolulu Congressman Neil Abercrombie were dealt a hard blow, first with Abercrombie's two successive, albeit narrow, wins over current Federal Trade Commission member Orson Swindle in 1994 and 1996, and then in 1998 with his decisive victory over of state House minority leader Gene Ward. Despite massive infusions of GOP "soft money" from the mainland on Ward's behalf, Abercrombie polled a very respectable 63%.
However, one needs only to look at the ages of Hawaii's all-Democrat congressional delegation to realize the future possibilities that exist in the islands for GOP inroads. Abercrombie, 64, is the "youngster" of the group. Patsy Mink, the most senior congresswoman in the U.S. House today, is 75. Senator Daniel Inouye, who has held that office since 1962, is 78. So is Senator Daniel Akaka.
Second is Hawaii's long-standing national reputation as a stalwart bastion of Democratic Party politics. Since 1962, Democrats have tightly held the reigns of political power through its control of the State Legislature and especially the governor's office, with its extensive powers of appointment and patronage. With Democrats dominating the legislature and in high-profile positions throughout state and county government, the national Republican Party until recently had understandably written off Hawaii as not worth any real expenditure of effort.
But longstanding voter anxiety about the state's stagnant economy, which led to Linda Lingle's 1998 near-miss, have created an unexpected opportunity that has not gone unnoticed by the GOP leadership in Washington, D.C. If they could wrest control of the Hawaii governor's office in 2002, controlling its extensive powers of patronage in a state with an aging congressional delegation could allow the GOP to field strong candidates once any of those seats become vacant. That might very well prove to be crucial in determining the future control of Congress.
The last few elections have revealed the vulnerability of Hawaii's Democrats. They can no longer reliably depend upon their Republican opponents to beat themselves as in the past. Unless they arouse themselves from their self-induced doldrums and decisively confront this very real challenge, Democrats face the very real possibility of being collectively swept from office over the next few electoral cycles. And if they do, they will have no one to blame but themselves.
Let's consider ourselves forewarned.
Mahalo and Aloha--
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