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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3 ,2002

Lingle clears her decks to battle for nomination

By Bob Dye
Kailua-based historian and writer

The other hat is finally off! So are the gloves! Moderate Linda Lingle is ready to battle for the Republican nomination for governor against conservative John Carroll.

Linda Lingle hopes to raise as much as $6 million for the 2002 gubernatorial race.

Advertiser library photo • May 19, 1999

The popular GOP chairwoman steps down from her partisan position soon after the annual Lincoln Day banquet, Thursday evening in the Sheraton Waikiki Hawaii Ballroom.

That this major GOP event is sold out attests to Lingle's leadership and fund-raising ability. The bash to honor the Great Emancipator and political party founder is expected to net $200,000.

"I found out that I'm a good fund-raiser, here and on the Mainland," she tells me in the conference room at GOP headquarters on Kapi'olani Avenue. "And I like it. I find that I do communicate my passion for those things for which the party stands."

She writes a personal thank-you note to each and every contributor, large or small, she says.

"The Republican Party now has financial stability," she assures me. She rattles off her record: "Since '98 there've been 3,500 contributors. Since the '98 race there have been 17,000 contributors ..." Her goal is to raise $5 million to $6 million for the 2002 race.

Is David Murdock (head of Castle & Cooke) again raising money for you on the Mainland?

"Yes, he is."

The Campaign Spending Commission report submitted by Lingle on Thursday showed her campaign raised, in the last half of last year, $260,715. She has $561,688 in hand. Her opponent in the primary, John Carroll raised $1,700, and had $1,629 in hand.

Carroll says he is patterning his fund-raising effort after that of Harry Kim, who successfully won the Big Island mayoral race by accepting no donation over $10.

"Political fund-raising is fast approaching immorality," Carroll contends. "I just won't participate in that."

After stepping down from the GOP top job, Lingle will devote time to issues development: "I'll find consensus between groups who want change and seek improvement in our society," she says in the practiced way of a political pro. "My campaign will address three major problems facing Hawai'i: jobs, schools and government reform."

She says she also will address two areas of personal concern, long-term care for the elderly and mental health.

Kaua'i, where Lingle was smashed last time out, is getting special attention this time.

Mayor Maryanne Kusaka has agreed to be co-chairwoman of the Lingle election committee. It was Lingle who tried "awfully hard" to convince Kusaka to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, and was disappointed that she failed.

But U.S. Rep. Neal Abercrombie, like Mink a Democrat, might not be so lucky. Lingle says there is the "potential" for a "very, very good" GOP challenger in that important race. But she wouldn't even hint who it might be.

A household name considered by wannabe kingmakers as a possible candidate for Congress is Republican state Sen. Bob Hogue. Hogue, who brought his star-quality persona from TV sports announcing to politics, acknowledges that a couple folks had approached him earlier to run for Congress. He says he is "flattered, but isn't interested at this point."

He does say, however, that he retains an interest in a race for lieutenant governor. Actively pursuing that primary race is another TV personality, Dalton Tanonaka.

Lingle will continue to recruit candidates to bolster the strength of the minority party in the Legislature. She groans that it was easier to elect 17 GOP members to the House than it is to add seven more for a majority.

"We have lots of opportunities. Redistricting was a help, because new districts were created," she points them out on wall maps, "but the next seven seats will be tough," she concedes.

My time is up. TV reporter Denby Fawcett is waiting to interview her. Lingle grabs make-up.

"I don't have to wear make-up for Bob," she jokes to an aide, "but I do for TV." She looks stylish, in the way of a professional woman: pale blue jacket, a fashionable multi-colored blouse, grey slacks, black flat shoes. As usual, her ornamentation is subdued.

Lingle's last day on the job is Feb. 19. After that Micah Kane, the man she groomed for the job, takes over as party chairman.

"One of the most fulfilling things I did as chairman was mentoring people like Micah," she says proudly.

The 32-year old Kane is an unabashed admirer of Lingle. A student athlete at Kamehameha Schools, he played football (linebacker) and baseball (catcher) at Menlo College, from which he was graduated cum laude in business administration. He earned small-college All-American honors in both sports. He holds an MBA from UH-Manoa.

His entire professional career has been in Hawai'i. He taught physical education at Kamehameha and was a dorm adviser there. He served as a business consultant to Hawai'i and Pacific island start-up firms.

In 1994, he was a staff member for the Honolulu City Council Zoning Committee, and was responsible for community relations in Councilwoman Rene Mansho's North Shore district. From 1994 to '99, he was a government affairs liaison for the Building Industry Association. Married to a lawyer and the father of three small daughters, he became executive director of the Hawai'i Republican Party in 1999.

His tenure has had "bumps," he admits. He was attacked recently by a fellow Republican, state Rep. Bob McDermott, who accused him one day of fund-raising illegalities and on the next blamed him for the defeat of Honolulu City Council hopeful Sam Aiona. Just the day before I chatted with Lingle, Kane was pilloried by union members who picketed the GOP headquarters.

Kane walks me out the front door of the headquarters. I notice banners across the street hung on a building that is home to ILWU Local 142. They tout the names of two prominent Democratic politicians: Hirono and Kobayashi.

Reminders to Lingle that Mazie Hirono could be her opponent in November, and that Anne Kobayashi who soundly beat Lingle's candidate Aiona, is the newest Democrat on the nonpartisan Honolulu council.

I point teasingly to the signs.

Kane smiles wanly and mumbles something about politics.