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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 28, 2006

Republicans celebrate today's 'better Hawai'i'

State political conventions photo gallery
 •  Akaka, Case trade barbs before party's faithful

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Delegates to the state Republican Convention cheered wildly yesterday as Gov. Linda Lingle headed for the stage at the Sheraton Waikiki. Lingle is going into her re-election bid with a 66 percent approval rating, a statistic that helped fuel the crowd's enthusiasm.

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State Sen. Bob Hogue, one of the Republicans running for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Case, ended a convention speech yesterday with praise for his wife, Elaine Hogue, left.

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Former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa, who also is running for Case's seat, stated his determination to win at yesterday's convention: "I can beat the Democrats on Nov. 7," he shouted.

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The theme of this weekend's Republican State Convention at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel was "On The Road To A Better Hawai'i."

But most of the speeches leading up to yesterday's address by Gov. Linda Lingle were aimed at making the point that Hawai'i is already a better place thanks to the accomplishments of the Lingle administration.

"Does Governor Lingle's administration make a difference?" asked Linda Smith, Lingle's senior political adviser. "You bet it does!"

By the time Lingle who enjoys a 66 percent approval rating among Hawai'i's people, one of the highest in the nation stepped up to the podium herself an hour past schedule, the throng of jittery delegates had been whipped into an appropriate frenzy.

Lingle started her speech by thanking the convention's co-chairman, Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, who had previously been vague about his party affiliation.

Carlisle was anything but unclear yesterday at one point dazzling a packed ballroom with a little fancy footwork on stage.

"How fortunate we are that when he decided to align with a political party Peter Carlisle chose us!" said Lingle, to a roar of approval.

Lingle too spoke of her accomplishments. She highlighted what she called the "opportunities given us to make a change."

Those included getting Hawai'i's economy back on track; achieving mental-healthcare parity by moving Hawai'i from last place among the states four years ago to 15th place today; and lessening Hawai'i's dependence on foreign oil by requiring that ethanol be blended into gasoline.

She also talked about her vision of healthcare reforms, and improvements in the state's education system and long-term care for the elderly. She said she intended to take steps to deal with one of Hawai'i's most critical issues: growth.

"How much growth is too much?" she asked.

Lingle spoke about the need to be able to work with the opposing party, and the importance of maintaining a two-party system in Hawai'i.

But she didn't shy away from taking a swipe at Democrats.

She began by saying that while she remains personally committed to the GOP because she believes it means a better future for the state, "I want to make an important point here: The interests of our party and the interests of the public are not always identical.

"While I will always be loyal to the party, I will never put the party's interests above the interests of the people of Hawai'i."

Not so for the Democrats, who she said put the interests of the party above the people when they awarded contracts to large political contributors. Lingle cited another example, saying Democrats "raided" government pension funds to cover state employee pay raises.

"And now now they've come up with an amendment to the (state) Constitution that will be on your ballot in November" a measure that, if passed, would keep her from appointing judges to the bench in order to create a balance in the court system.

Lingle said that amendment was put on the ballot by Democrats who are upset because they think she has been appointing too many judges.

"Even though the Constitution has said since statehood that judges must retire when they're 70 years old, now they want to amend the Constitution to keep judges longer so that we can't appoint any new judges."

Delegates loudly booed the idea of Democrats trying to thwart Republican judicial appointments that way.

"They're not interested in people continuing to contribute (past the age of 70)," said Lingle. "They're interested in keeping the first Republican in 40 years from appointing any more judges.

"We're going to have to defeat that amendment."

That remark elicited cheers from the crowd.

Earlier, the two leading Republican candidates for the U.S. 2nd Congressional District state Sen. Bob Hogue and former state Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa warmed up the crowd with rousing campaign speeches augmented by loud music and dozens of placard-bearing supporters.

Both candidates spoke of the importance of maintaining national security, supporting our troops in the Middle East and staying the course in Iraq. Hogue said voters are tired of constantly hearing negative messages.

"Are we ready for a positive message?" asked Hogue, who promised to take that message with him to Washington.

Kawananakoa came straight to the point: "I can beat the Democrats on November 7," he shouted.

Hogue and Kawananakoa are trying to win the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, a fellow Democrat, for the Senate.

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.