The Aftermath Of The Takeover

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - November 15, 2006

“Damned if I know,” sayeth the columnist, scratching his head - for it is indeed head-scratching time.

Still, some things were made clear last Tuesday, starting with Hawaii’s voters’ immense approval of Gov. Linda Lingle - or “Aunty Linda,” as a little boy referred to her in one of her radio advertisements. Lingle received 203,000 votes, nearly double the vote of Democrat Randy Iwase.

Admittedly, few - if any - Democrats saw Iwase as their gubernatorial candidate going into election year 2006. Few Democrats sent him any money; at last report he had $330,000, to Lingle’s $6 million. Few Democrats - if any - thought Iwase had any chance of winning, despite the rumor circulated the weekend before the election that “Randy’s closing fast. He’s within 5 percentage points.”

So a lot of Democrats, all the Republicans, and that huge mass in the middle who call themselves independents voted for Gov. Lingle. Many did so because, as so many Democrats of my acquaintance are wont to say, she’s “really a Democrat.”

Lingle certainly was this year. Like every other moderate Republican in the country, Lingle ran away from her party’s leader, George W. Bush, as fast as she possibly could. Instead, she trumpeted her administration’s spending on schools, job creation and housing.

During her next administration, Lingle is likely to keep the “R” behind her name equally well-hidden - because if there is any loud and clear message of election year 2006 it is that Hawaii remains a Democratic state.

Despite Lingle’s impressive victory, Hawaii’s Republicans fared poorly in legislative races. Republican Party insiders felt they would pick up as many as six seats in the state House of Representatives and perhaps one in the state Senate. Instead, they lost two seats in the House, and gained none in the Senate.

What also hurt was where they lost. Waikiki has been a Republican stronghold for years, but there Democrat Tom Brower edged out Anne Stevens, who had been appointed to fill out the term of Galen Fox. And the growing Makakilo-Kapolei District, represented by Republican Mark Moses for the past decade, rejected him this year; its voters turned instead to Democratic newcomer Sharon Har.

Worse, despite demographic changes on the Neighbor Islands that would seem to help Republicans, they failed to win a single House seat there. When the next legislative session begins, a lone Republican legislator will sit in either house, Sen. Paul Whalen from Hawaii County.

So Gov. Lingle will have to play nice with the Democrats. So too, if he wishes to salvage any of his presidency, will President Bush.

Iraq and corruption among House and Senate Republicans undermined GOP control of Congress. The Democratic takeover could have been avoided had Bush demonstrated any flexibility in his Iraq policy; but a combination of his own hubris and stubbornness got him, along with far too compliant Republican majorities in House and Senate.

No Republican on Capitol Hill said “no” to the president. Few voiced even a whisper of criticism of Iraq policy, and on domestic issues only Arizona Sen. John McCain occasionally raised a voice in protest.

Congressional Democrats, however, must be wary. Historically, new majorities tend to overreach in their attempt to fashion national policy from the Capitol. The Republicans certainly did when they seized control of Congress in 1994, lending President Bill Clinton enormous popularity even as he did his best to destroy himself.

Hawaii, of course, gains from the Democratic takeover. Democrat Dan Inouye will chair a important Senate committee, Dan Akaka a sub-committee. U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie will chair a sub-committee in the House.

So what’s next? Time will tell. Time will tell.

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