UPDATED: 5:30 p.m. 9/30/10

Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle took a shot at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie Thursday morning, suggesting to a pro-business group that the former congressman’s old age makes him set in his ways.

“Can you imagine talking to Neil Abercrombie about not raising taxes?” Lingle asked the audience of roughly 80 people. “He doesn’t agree with you. He’s 70-something years old — do you think you could convince him to think differently after all these decades?”

“The alternative,” Lingle said, “is to elect Duke Aiona and Lynn Finnegan … and more Republican legislators … It’s a more efficient way to make your voice heard because these are people who already agree with you.”

Lingle was the guest speaker at a networking breakfast meeting sponsored by Smart Business Hawaii, whose president is Republican State Sen. Sam Slom. The attendees, mostly small business owners, welcomed Lingle with a standing ovation.

After listing her accomplishments after two terms as governor, Lingle launched into criticisms of Abercrombie while boosting the Republican ticket.

She said having a Republican governor and lieutenant governor will impose checks and balances on the Democrat-controlled state Legislature: “You’ll get less (harmful legislation) because they know it’ll be vetoed.”

UPDATE: Laurie Au, spokeswoman for Abercrombie’s campaign responded to Lingle’s comment about the former congressman’s age, saying, “It’s disappointing that Gov. Lingle and Lt. Gov. Aiona would both try to disparage Neil Abercrombie’s age today in an attempt to distract voters from the real challenges facing Hawaii. After eight years of blame shifting and finger-pointing, the people of Hawaii are ready to move in a new direction with leadership that will listen and bring us together.”

The rest of Lingle’s half-hour speech at the Pineapple Room restaurant at Ala Moana Shopping Center was spent tooting her own horn. She talked about what she regards as the Lingle-Aiona administration’s biggest accomplishments — though she only mentioned Duke by name twice, once in her explicit endorsement and a second time saying “Duke and I were not willing to raise taxes.”

Lingle seemed comfortable with the audience, making quips and pitting Republican lawmakers against Democrats, saying the former group has the interest of small businesses in mind. She even criticized the Obama administration for “selling more debt” and sticking the next generation with the bill.

Here are some of the accomplishments Lingle listed:

  • “Prudent fiscal management”: Dealing with the state’s $3 billion budget shortfall over the past two fiscal years. She noted that she implemented a 14 percent across-the-board reduction in state spending, furloughs and “some” layoffs.

“When we closed the books on June 30, our expenditures were below our revenues, and that’s quite a great accomplishment,” she said.

  • Improved infrastructure at the state airports, harbors and highways.

  • Boosted revenue from the film industry: TV and movie productions are expected to generate $400 million in revenue and an estimated 2,200 jobs. (She said she’s a “huge fan” of the “Hawaii Five-0” show, which is expected to spend $60 million in the islands this year.)
    She mentioned the layoffs of four employees of the five-person Hawaii Film Office, saying: “Last year we had to cut the size of our (state) Film Office because of the Legislature — not our legislators here — yet we still had a record year of productions.” (Besides Slom, Republican Reps. Gene Ward and Lynn Finnegan also were in the audience.)

  • The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative: The commitment made in January 2008 requiring 40 percent of Hawaii’s energy come from renewable sources such as wind and solar and commits to reducing the state’s energy use by 30 percent within 20 years.

“This was a security issue and an economic strength issue,” she said of the plan. “The conversion will be more expensive for the individual consumer, but over the long term we will be more secure and our economy will be stronger.”

Lingle also spent a lot of time talking about the constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November regarding an appointed versus elected Hawaii State Board of Education. The amendment would replace the elected board with one appointed by the governor.

“Labor unions control a large part of that board,” she said. “The (Hawaii Government Employees Association), (Hawaii State Teachers Association) and (United Public Workers) union — they have a vested interest in who sits on that board. This is the organization that every year we take $2 billion and hand it off to them out of a $5 billion general fund to spend as they want. I support you voting yes. Then you have someone to hold accountable.”

Lingle closed by saying her term has been “the greatest privilege of my life and has made me the envy of all the governors in America.”

About the Author