Categorized | Elections, Featured, News

Lingle looking for balance in Congressional delegation

Linda Lingle speaks Thursday, Jan. 12 before a group of small business owners at Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Lingle for U.S. Senate 2012)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

Linda Lingle, former Hawaii governor and current candidate for U.S. Senate, wants to bring balanced representation to Washington, D.C.

Lingle spoke to several dozen business owners at a Thursday luncheon at Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, during a series of appearances across the state.

“The hardest part of the job is leaving Hawaii, but I want to bring balance to D.C.,” she said. “I’m excited about the possibilities if we can get some common sense in Washington. I don’t think America’s best days are over by a long shot.”

Lingle, a Republican, is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Akaka, who is retiring after 22 years.

She countered the arguments she is sure will be made by senior Sen. Daniel Inouye and President Barack Obama, both Democrats.

For example, Inouye will argue if the Republicans gain in the Senate, he will lose the powerful Appropriations Committee chairmanship.

Lingle said the Republicans could win majority in the Senate anyway, which would leave Hawaii without any representation.

“It would be worse to have no-one from the state in the majority party,” she said. “It’s best to have a foot in both camps.”

Obama likely will campaign for the Democratic candidate and urge Hawaii voters to help him get the U.S. back on track.

Lingle said she will fight to keep the two races – Senate and presidential – separate.

The president serves only four year terms, she said, while senators can serve for decades. No incumbent Hawaii senator has ever been defeated, she noted.

Regardless of who wins in November, Lingle said, “this U.S. senator will serve us for a generation. The No. 1 obligation is to the people who sent you to D.C., not the party.”

Lingle has long worked with Inuoye and believes they would make a strong team for Hawaii. She said she has several friends in the Senate, leaders who were governors during her tenure, and has established relationships with Republican leaders.

Lingle said she is used to working both parties, and sits on the Governor’s Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank. As mayor and governor, she has had the opportunity to “go out and do things” that her likely opponents have not.

A top priority would be to make sure tourism and tourism-related issues are addressed. The industry supports 14 million jobs nationwide and accounts for 9.5 percent of the country’s GDP, she said.

“And there is not even a sub-committee on tourism. There used to be, but there isn’t now,” she said. “I’d like to change that.”

Lingle said her time as governor allowed her to establish relationships in many Pacific Rim countries, including China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Good relations with those countries are critical to the U.S. not only for tourism and trade, but for national security, she said.

Like the Middle East, the Pacific has the potential to be a military and national security hotspot. For that reason, Lingle said, “PacCom (Pacific Command) must be fully funded and ready.”

Lingle pointed out she has experience in the business arena, as founder/publisher of the Molokai Free Press. Lingle went on to serve two terms as Maui mayor before losing the 1998 governor’s race by 1 percent of the votes.

Lingle won the 2002 governor’s race, campaigning on the slogan ‘Hawaii is open for business” and winning all 51 districts.

Her philosophy was to find a way to make it happen for people who wanted to create jobs, and she said that experience will carry over well in today’s economic climate.

“Government doesn’t create jobs,” she said. “It needs to create an atmosphere to encourage people to take risks and invest.”

Lingle said she has a four-pronged approach to creating jobs and restoring confidence for job creators: tax reform; immigration reform; regulatory reform; and lawsuit reform.

Chunks of the 14,000-page tax code have outlived their usefulness, she said. Loopholes, special interests and exemptions need an overhaul.

Lingle acknowledged the right to sue is important, but would like to see some form of ‘loser pays’ instituted to protect innocent people and prevent frivolous lawsuits.

On immigration, Lingle said she would take the focus off ‘illegal’ and concentrate on ‘legal.’ Noting college students often want to stay in the U.S. after graduation and invest in this country, Lingle said she’d consider “stapling a green card right to that diploma.”

As for regulatory reform, Lingle champions a jobs impact study pre-requisite for any new business regulations.

Many of her ideas for the country mirror the pro-business efforts she made as Hawaii’s governor. “I can’t hide from my record,” she said. “I’m proud of it.”

Lastly, Lingle said she is aware of the huge distance between Hawaii and Washington, and the time difference. She would shift her office hours to be more accessible to residents during regular Hawaii business hours.

Lingle looks likely to be the only viable Republican candidate in the Aug. 11 primary. Democratic candidates include Ed Case and Mazie Hirono.

During her visit to the Big Island, Lingle stopped in Hilo to thank representatives of State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, which last week endorsed her candidacy.

The visit also included visits with numerous businesses, several hotels and a coffee talk in Waimea.

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