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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Ambitious GOP goals will require discipline

Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Lingle says her dream for the Hawai'i GOP is not to throw out the Democrats and take over the state, but simply to provide an effective political balance.

But the goals Lingle set out for her party at their convention on Maui this past weekend would, if accomplished, be almost as much of a "revolution" as the one that sent the Democrats to prominence in 1954.

Lingle said her goals for 2002 are to win the governorship (with her as the candidate, obviously) and achieve a working majority in the state House. The Republicans this year zoomed to 19 members in the House — within shouting distance of a 26-member majority.

That number gave the House GOP extraordinary parliamentary clout and contributed greatly to the confidence of a long-overlooked minority.

If Republicans control the governorship and at least one of two houses in the Legislature, they will be in a position to set broad public policy for the state.

And that brings the long-suffering Republicans to the second part of their task.

It is one thing to set electoral goals. It is quite another to set an agenda that (A) will help achieve those goals and (B) can be accomplished once they get there.

The outlines of a party-wide program are in place, including such changes as county-level school boards and repeal of the 4 percent tax on food and drugs. On this last, the tax repeal, House Republicans nicely positioned Democrats on the other side of the issue, forcing them to vote for keeping the tax.

While the Democratic position is entirely defensible, it takes some explaining. Meanwhile, the ban-the-tax position is instantly understandable and popular.

Republicans also put themselves on record as supporting, at least in general terms, the efforts of Hawaiians to achieve recognition from the federal government. This is important because Hawaiians are emerging as an increasingly important voting bloc.

Lingle has set an ambitious but not inconceivable goal for herself and her party over the next year-and-a-half. The task ahead is to keep that energy level high and demonstrate that Republicans have something to offer Hawai'i other than being "not Democrats."

That approach has been tried over and over again, without success.