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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

Hirono thanks staff, ponders next move

 •  Naming top-level posts among Lingle's first steps

With Lingle win, school board debate to resurface

 •  Analysis: Sturdy campaign worked for Lingle
 •  Women set record, with six as governors
 •  Legislature's Democrats willing to hear Lingle out
 •  Energized Lingle reaps first rewards of victory
 •  Attack ads, GOP effort were factors in turnout, experts say
 •  Mink victory spawns growing field of hopefuls
 •  Inouye, Akaka must give up posts
 •  City Council to get fresh start
 •  Arakawa's upset win in Maui mayoral race crowned GOP sweep
 •  For election results, see our Voter's Guide

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Following a historic defeat that made Republican Linda Lingle the state's next governor, Hawai'i Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono said yesterday her top priority for the next few weeks would be to thank a multitude of campaign volunteers for their help.

Mazie Hirono held a press conference yesterday at her headquarters, where she thanked supporters and discussed her future. The lieutenant governor said she wouldn't rule out any political options and expected to continue her career in the public arena.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I'm making a lot of thank you calls all across the state to hundreds and hundreds of volunteers," she said. "I'm calling them up individually to personally thank them for their sweat and commitment."

Dressed in a Navy blue suit and wearing a dendrobium lei, Hirono answered questions from the press at her campaign headquarters near the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Hirono had earlier turned down invitations for one-on-one interviews because "it's too soon," said Hirono's campaign spokeswoman, Barbara Tanabe.

Smiling throughout the brief press conference, Hirono deflected questions about the importance of the first Democratic loss in the gubernatorial contest in four decades by redirecting attention to the fact that Democrats still control the state Legislature.

She wished Lingle and the new Republican-controlled executive branch well, but added that Democrats would now hold them accountable for keeping the promises made during the campaign.

Several times Hirono said she wouldn't rule out any political options and that in the future she expected to continue serving the public. But she evaded specifics.

Hirono deflected questions about the importance of Hawai'i's first Democratic gubernatorial loss in 40 years, but said Democrats would hold Republicans to their campaign promises.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

"I'm going to be doing those things that will make a contribution," she said. "I haven't decided what that might be yet. But trust me, that's where I'm going. I'm not closing my mind to anything.

"But today, I'm doing my thanking."

Many factors contributed to her loss, she said, noting that all over the country there appears to be a move to the political right.

"I think clearly there are certain trends that showed in the other races," she said. "I don't think Hawai'i is immune to those kinds of trends.

"But I also believe that there are cycles to these things. I remember in 1994 when Newt Gingrich got elected with the 'Contract with America.' And then the cycle turned. I'm very optimistic, but I'm philosophical about what happened."

She said she had no regrets about her campaign strategy, although she said the fact that Lingle outspent her probably hurt her chances. She said on the surface the voters appeared to want change. But in polls, when they were asked to state specific changes they wanted, voters often failed to respond.

Consequently, she said her campaign tried to focus on positive changes in such issues as education, drugs and crime and the economy.

Hirono said last-minute dirty tricks also played a part in her defeat.

"Negative campaigns, hard-hitting factual-based campaigning — that's OK," she said. "But smears, anonymous phone calls coming from the Mainland, that's not acceptable. That happened a lot in the last several days."