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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 13, 2006

GOP must develop for two-party system

President Bush called the Republican Party's defeat last Tuesday a "thumping."

But here at home, while Hawai'i's Republicans lost seats at the Capitol, they handily retained the top spot. Gov. Linda Lingle's win shows competency can trump ideology. Lingle's strategy demonstrates that when you are forced to lead from the middle, a minority party can indeed attract the majority of voters.

In essence, a vote should be viewed as a reward for a job well done. Nationally, had there been a better job done in Iraq, perhaps the rebuke of Republican leadership would have been far less severe.

In Hawai'i, the majority of voters validated Lingle's successful record of leadership from the center.

The governor campaigned hard on what have traditionally been key Democratic issues, including homelessness and affordable housing, which appeared effective in appealing to the state's sea of Democrats.

But there were no Lingle coattails for other Republicans here, no "trickle down" of goodwill to grassroots candidates.

Hawai'i GOP head Sam Aiona called the lone bright spots the victories of Gene Ward in Hawai'i Kai and Mike Gabbard in Kapolei, both veteran politicians who were expected to win. But that was balanced with losses by House incumbents Anne Stevens in Waikiki and Mark Moses in Kapolei.

Of the the GOP newcomers, Karen Awana in Wai'anae did pull off an upset victory over incumbent Michael Kahikina. But other future hopefuls, such as Rick Manayan, Keoki Leong and Tracy Okubo were soundly defeated. Let's hope they aren't discouraged from running again.

Nurturing a vibrant Republican base in a place so staunchly and historically Democratic as Hawai'i is no easy task.

But building a viable two-party system is important in ensuring a strong democracy. Republican party leaders must recognize their key role in inspiring and developing a strong bench of newcomers with a solid record of public service.

Nationally, we saw what happens when one party dominates all branches of government, from the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Democracy is too often in dormancy when one voice rules.