Trouble in paradise for DemocratsBy Anne McDermott/CNN
HONOLULU, HawaiI (October 28) -- They're as Hawaiian as hula, as popular as poi and roast pig, they're as ubiquitous as ukulele.
They are the Democrats -- like Gov. Ben Cayetano. Cayetano is the latest in an unbroken string of Democrat governors that goes back 36 years.
But this year, something rather extraordinary may happen here. This year the Republican candidate for governor just might win.
Her name is Linda Lingle. The two term mayor of Maui is way ahead in the polls.
How did that happen? Well, as someone once said, its the economy, stupid.
Sure, tourists still come to cabarets here, and bask on the beaches here, and mop up the mai-tai's here -- just not as many as used to, thanks in part to the financial crisis that hit Asia so hard.
And Hawaii never really pulled out of the recession the way the rest of the country did. And Lingle points that out in almost every ad.
"Linda Lingle created 5,400 new jobs on Maui while Hawaii lost 9,000 jobs," a Lingle campaign ad touts.
She says she knows how Hawaiians feel.
"They really put up with a lot and I think they're just at the end of their rope right now," Lingle says.
She brings a pro-business mentality to the campaign, but some say her greatest asset may be simply that she's not, Cayetano.
"Basically what Linda Lingle is running on is change, change, and more change," says Professor Dan Boylan of the University of Hawaii.
But the moderate Democrat is fighting back, spending more than $4.5 million on the campaign compared to just over $3 million for Lingle. Cayetano's message: the economy is slowly improving. And he says, change for the sake of change can be as foolish as changing football coaches.
"Somebody's doing five-and-five and people are upset because the state used to be nine-and-one or ten-and-zero, and they make a change and now they're zero-and-six," Cayetano warns.
He talks up how he's streamlined his government, and he talks up his integrity.
"There's never been a whiff of scandal during his administration," a Cayetano campaign ad tells viewer.
And calls in the big guns like Vice President Al Gore.
"Governor Cayetano has steered a steady course," Gore tells a Cayetano rally.
But Lingle has some heavy ammo of her own. Like one-time presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman. And neither candidate neglects their grass roots.
At the moment, it doesn't look good for Cayetano. But, he has been steadily whittling away at Lingle's lead, and there are a lot of undecided voters -- in the double digits.
And, some analysts expect this race could be very close by Election Day. After all, the habit of voting Democratic is still as Hawaiian as, you know.
Wednesday, October 28, 1998
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