BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Republicans will have a better chance of taking control of the 100-member U.S. Senate in 2012 if Hawaii’s Gov. Linda Lingle is elected.
With the political stakes so high, Democrats now hold 51 seats, including 23 of the 33 up for grabs, political and advocacy groups on both sides of the isle will battle over the next 13 months to take Hawaii’s open U.S. Senate seat left vacant by U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka’s retirement.
And these groups are expected to drive millions of dollars into Hawaii’s advertising and media market as they launch attacks on the opposition.
“This won’t be an easy race for me, with President Obama on the ballot,” Lingle acknowledged today during her announcement that she plans to run.
But Lingle, 58, wasn’t as focused on the $8 million to $10 million she expects to have to raise for this race to get out her message and defend herself against those attacks – or claims Democrats are already making about her record.
Instead, Lingle unveiled a new platform that she will spend the next several months pushing in talk stories and meetings around the state.
“My highest priority is job creation and economic growth for our nation and at home. This is especially important for our state because we are so reliant on tourism, and people only come here if they have discretionary income and confidence in the future,” Lingle said.
Job creation will come as the business climate improves. Lingle wants to cut burdensome and unnecessary regulations. Her idea is to implement an impact statement process for new regulations proposed by the government, similar to an Environmental Impact Statement, which would determine how many jobs would be lost if the regulation became law. “If we lose a million jobs, it would not be worth it,” she said.
She also spoke of her goal of becoming an advocate for tourism in America, using her experiences in Hawaii, a tourism dependent state, to make the visitor experience more enjoyable and less cumbersome, especially for foreign visitors.
“There is no one at the national level who speaks for tourism in America,” she said.
Lingle said obtaining a visa to come to America from places like South Korea is extremely difficult and can take hours in line at the only American embassy and days to months of waiting for a simple approval to get married in the islands.
“We would create 1.3 million new jobs if we restore our share of tourism to the level it was at in 2000,” Lingle said. “After 9-11 we got scared, and clamped down on people visiting America, and this was an important issue to address, but we have simply gone too far. With our national policies, we are saying we really don’t want you to come to America, but if you do, this is what you have to do to get here.”
A big part of her focus would be on the nation’s budget, which she said is in a crisis because of overspending – “money that is spend and gone” – with little to show for it.
She also called for more fairness and transparency in the nation’s taxation policies.
She’d also focus on defense, and keeping defense forces funded, stable and staffed.
“I have strong feelings about defense,” Lingle said, noting she chose Hawaii Adjunct General Robert Lee as her campaign manager for that very reason.
She said that terrorism, bio security, and cyber warfare, bring threatens to Hawaii and the nation.
“We have to maintain resources for our Pacific Command. It is in Hawaii’s interest to have an appropriate level of military forces and at a high of readiness,” Lingle said.
Legal immigration needs to be fair, transparent and have a common sense approach. She said student visas requiring students to leave America after they graduate from school here, and workers visas that force farm workers to move back home, need reform. She said if students move to America, like it here, and get a good education, they should be allowed to stay in America to work rather than being sent home to compete with Americans. For farm workers, she said the hardest working people with the greatest dedication to their families leave home to work in farms in America, and people with those qualities should be allowed to stay here. She also suggests a more family friendly immigration policies for people who want to bring family members here legally.
On education, Lingle said, like President Barack Obama, she supports charter schools, a focus on math, science, engineering and technology and merit-based pay for teachers.
She pledged to keep fighting for the Akaka Bill, which is a controversial native Hawaiian sovereignty measure opposed by the majority of her political party delegates, but supported by most Democrats.
Lingle described herself as a moderate, and suggested that those holding political offices in both parties need to be serious and act like adults. “Both political parties acting in ways not in best ways for people of America,” Lingle said without specifics.
Having had to work with Hawaii’s predominantly Democratic political party, whether in the Maui county council, as mayor of Maui or as governor of the state from 2002 to 2010, Lingle said she has the skills to work in a bipartisan manner and focus not on what her political party asks of her, but on what the people want.
Lingle, who was elected in 2002 as the 6th governor of Hawaii and was easily re-elected in her second term in 2006, also served as a 5-term council member on Maui and two-term Mayor of Maui.
Republican state Senator John Carroll, a 81-year-old conservative who unsuccessfully has taken on Lingle before in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, will challenge Lingle in the Senate primary. He said today that he looks forward to debating Linda on the issues that are important to Hawaii’s Republicans, and he took issue with some of her positions.
He said the Akaka Bill, which many consider divisive and even ‘racist,’ was actively promoted by Lingle.
Carroll also pointed to the Jones Act as an “archaic set of restrictive Federal shipping laws that raise Hawaii’s cost of living.” He added, “Lingle had eight years, as our governor, to fight this unfair law that costs Hawaii’s people millions, and chose to do nothing.”
While Democrat candidates Ed Case and Mazie Hirono sent out statements attacking Lingle’s record and affiliation with the Republican party today, as detailed in this earlier story in Hawaii Reporter, Lingle had her supporters who spoke out on her behalf.
Former Congressman Charles Djou, who is serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, can’t issue his own statement while on active duty. But his campaign manager, former Republican Congresswoman Pat Saiki of Hawaii, said:
“Governor Lingle has the executive experience and leadership skills we need in our nation’s capital. Under her leadership, our economy grew, jobs were created, and our state moved closer to a clean energy future. Lingle’s record demonstrates that she will be a strong, independent voice for the people of Hawaii. We look forward to seeing Linda Lingle elected to the U.S. Senate.”