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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Emotions run high for Lingle, Cayetano

By Jerry Burris
Advertiser Editorial Editor

For Ben Cayetano, Linda Lingle, their families and associates, tomorrow will be a day of high emotion.

At noon, Lingle will be sworn in as Hawai'i's sixth governor since statehood, and Cayetano will step back into an unaccustomed role: private citizen.

It is tough to decide who will be most affected by the moment. Cayetano will be taking his leave — his official leave, in any event — of a building where he has worked for most of his professional career as legislator, lieutenant governor and governor.

For the past 16 years, the top floor of the State Capitol has been Cayetano's full-time business home — eight years as lieutenant governor and eight years as governor. At noon, he'll walk away from all that.

The eight years as governor have not been entirely happy ones for Cayetano and his staff. He has had to deal with a relentless series of budget crises, spending cuts and the sobering aftereffects of Sept. 11. It must be said that the state had the right man in place for that grim job.

Cayetano is unafraid to say no, and unintimidated by the prospect that his decisions will make people unhappy with him. Some politicians want to be loved (well, they all do, but this is more important to some than others).

Cayetano seemed almost eager to take on decisions that would get him in trouble with one interest group or another. He and his policy alter-ego, Earl Anzai, relished going into a policy fight chin out.

Now, that's all over. There will be books to write, golf games to be played, boards to sit on and law to practice. But by his own choice, Cayetano will step away from the policy and political battles he so much enjoyed, once and for all.

It won't be an easy transition, both for Cayetano and his staff. Running the state is difficult, frustrating and tiring but also very heady business. It's a sure bet that there will be more than a few people experiencing a severe sense of loss tomorrow.

For Lingle and her team, tomorrow will be a day of great anticipation and, at some level, a sense of foreboding. They now have the watch. Immediately, every decision is up to them to make.

After the swearing-in, Lingle and her team will tour the freshly cleaned executive offices. Shelves will have been swept clear of eight years of files, records and reports. As they walk through their koa-paneled offices for the first time, the magnitude of the job will begin to press down.

While Lingle, a former Maui mayor, has executive experience which will serve her in good stead, she doesn't have the years of detailed involvement in state issues that former legislator Cayetano came armed with. She faces a steep learning curve.

Campaigns are all about promises and criticism. Once you win, the game changes entirely.

Now, as Cayetano surely advised Lingle in their private pre-transition meetings, the real work begins.

Hawai'i wishes her well.

Reach Jerry Burris through letters@honoluluadvertiser.com.