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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Lingle victory signals Hawai'i set for change

Last night's stunning victory by Republican Linda Lingle and running mate James Aiona in the governor's race represents a sea change in Island politics.

The triumphant GOP team now has the responsibility of making sure that the voters are rewarded for their decision to break a four-decade Democratic political tradition in these Islands.

During the campaign, Lingle presented a substantive program and a long list of ideas she wants to advance as governor. But fundamentally, she stood for change — change from politics as usual and an ingrained and embedded way of doing things that has developed over the past 40 years.

That's all well and good. And it was enough of a promise to pull a majority to her side. But what will that change look like in practical reality?

Will our economic climate, struggling but slowly improving, change suddenly for the better? Lingle's election by itself will undoubtedly stimulate some investors and businesses to take a fresh look at Hawai'i. But they will quickly turn away unless they are convinced this is a state in which they can conduct successful, responsible business on a sustainable basis.

Will our public schools change from a system that too often sits near the bottom in national rankings to one that attracts national attention and local excitement? It would be wrong and unfair to expect overnight changes, but the voters clearly expect the new Lingle administration to kickstart our educational establishment.

What will be the impact of a change in the political culture, in Lingle's words, away from "cronyism" and toward a "fair and open system"? As the new administration will quickly discover, not everyone who works for, or with, government is a crony in need of replacement.

Another point must be made here: While Lingle's victory was substantial, a huge number of people voted for Democrats Mazie Hirono and Matt Matsunaga as well.

And if Lingle represented change, Hirono and Matsunaga represented continuing and preserving much of the best of the status quo.

For a lot of folks, apparently, that wasn't a bad thing.

It's easy to complain about conditions in Hawai'i, but it cannot be forgotten that we have one of the world's most admired physical climates, a social climate that is virtually unique and a web of environmental, labor, consumer protection and social welfare laws that put people first.

All this is not by accident. It is the result of four decades of policy-making by dominant Democrats that not all voters are willing to tear apart.

So the message for Lingle and Aiona is to take the mandate for change seriously, but carry it forward with caution and care. While Hawai'i surely wants change, it just as clearly cherishes what it has.

We're confident this bright new Lingle administration will be up to this difficult challenge. Congratulations to Linda Lingle and Duke Aiona.

We wish them well.