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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Close race offers hope for Hawai'i

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

We are blessed by a gubernatorial election that is too close to call.

Because the polls show the candidates neck and neck, both campaigns have had to be more visible, more available, more detailed about plans, more specific about issues.

The tight race has not only fired up the candidates and their supporters, it's forced the rest of us to pay attention. In a time of voter apathy and widespread cynicism, there has been talk of hope, of new beginnings, of positive change. There has also been discussion in classrooms, across dinner tables, on inter-island flights and workplace break rooms about what really matters. People have defined their priorities for government, they've put thought into it, they've spoken up and written letters. There is perceptible excitement, like the buzz at a UH football game.

A favorite example is a commercial running on Maui radio stations urging Maui residents to get out and vote. The message is essentially, eh, last time Maui had the worst voter turnout in the state. We gotta beat the other islands this time or else shame! GO VOTE!

Nothing like competition to get people off the couch.

Of course, competition can bring out the worst, too. But other than some sharply worded campaign ads, and some dark anonymous whispers, Hawai'i voters have been spared the indignities of a race fought unfairly.

Today, we have to endure the final spate of campaigning and posturing, but tomorrow we will have a governor-elect who will know she won despite fierce opposition.

That can be a real blessing to us all.

Our next governor will begin her term with her feet to the fire. The campaign promises will have to manifest quickly, the change everyone is talking about will have to come soon, or at least start soon, or she will be a one-term governor.

Both sides are saying they're going to campaign as hard as they can until the finish. Let's hope the winning side saves their real strength for doing the work that needs to be done once they're sworn into office. Let's hope that the one who becomes our next governor remembers that she must now serve, that is, truly be in the service of, a large number of people who did not support her.

What also needs to happen starting tomorrow, is that the losing side, the candidates and their campaign workers and all their supporters, must keep talking, keep pushing, keep working, not in a spiteful way, but in a purposeful way. Both sides say they care deeply for the people of Hawai'i. Both sides should be held to that promise.

When the votes are tallied and the speeches are made, when campaign signs come down and the mahalo commercials are pau, we have to remind both candidates, and ourselves, that there's only one team here: team Hawai'i. Real change will take everyone's effort to become reality.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.