- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Republicans are braced for a net loss in governorships on Nov. 5, but have hopes of winning the Hawaii gubernatorial race.

The GOP's hopes once again hang on Linda Lingle, a Republican in a very liberal Democratic state that has been plagued as local newspapers there have reported with corruption for enough years to give a Republican an even shot at victory.

Eight Hawaii public officials all Democrats went to jail in the last 18 months on charges ranging from ethics violations to embezzlement.

Miss Lingle is a former mayor of Maui County on the island of Maui, a popular resort destination. Once a publicist for the Teamsters union in Honolulu, she came within 1 percentage point of winning the governorship in 1998.

Hawaii has not had a Republican governor since 1962.

The good news for Republicans is the latest Honolulu Advertiser poll of 750 likely voters, which found Miss Lingle ahead of her Democrat opponent, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, by a 44 percent to 40 percent margin.

The bad news for Republicans came with the release this week of another new poll that showed the race dead even. An Oct. 17-24 survey of 600 likely voters for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin had Miss Lingle and Miss Hirono at 40 percent each. The survey had an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Two months earlier, the same poll had Miss Lingle leading 43 percent to 31 percent.

Still, Republican leaders especially those from frosty northern states can't help daydreaming about the wonderful things in store if Miss Lingle does prevail.

"I don't remember ever having a Republican National Committee annual meeting in Hawaii," said Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris DePino.

"But if Linda wins, and I think she will, then why not have one there?" said Mr. DePino. "Of course, I'd have to double up on my suntan lotion, and I think we'd have to extend the annual meeting from three to six days because, well, it takes so long to get to Hawaii."

From his home in Devils Lake, N.D., state Republican Chairman Dan Traynor figures it's time for the party and for him to meet on Maui.

"I've never been to Hawaii, but I nearly made it in the winter of 1997, when I won a trip there in an Elks Lodge raffle," he said.

"But was in law school and because of my devotion study and law school, I had to sell my trip," he added with a laugh.

Of course, Republicans have to win the governor's mansion first. And Miss Lingle's opponents aren't making it easy.

When she denied lesbian rumors, Democratic Gov. Benjamin J. Cayetano, who is term-limited, said that her denial suggested she felt that homosexuality is "something to be ashamed of" and therefore she was "denigrating gays."

She says her opponents have falsely accused her of everything from wanting to privatize the whole state government to wanting to cancel Christmas as a state holiday.

She says they have lied about her favoring the legalization of same-sex "marriage" and physician-assisted suicides and making Hawaii a right-to-work state.

The Lingle campaign won't say publicly the Democrats stole the election last time, but it is clear about the precautions against vote fraud it has taken this time.

"We have ballot security in every precinct," said Miriam Hellreicht, the Lingle campaign national liaison and a member of the Republican National Committee, who was at a breakfast rally yesterday with Miss Lingle and Karen Hughes, a personal adviser to President Bush. "We're far better organized than last time."

"It has definitely gotten dirty," said Hawaii Republican Party Chairman Micah Kane, who said an advantage Democrats had over Miss Lingle last time doesn't exist this time.

"There is no more TV time left to buy for both candidates, unless you want to advertise on the Cartoon Network," Mr. Kane said. "Back in 1998, there was still airtime to buy a week or so before the election and labor union leadership bought it up. That can't happen this time."

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