The office swap between the outgoing Lingle administration and the incoming Abercrombie administration begins as early as the day after the election.

Veterans of past gubernatorial transitions describe a fairly smooth changeover despite the change in political party — there’ll be no removing of the “A” key from office keyboards, for example.

That crack about missing letters — “A” for Abercrombie — is a reference to the inflated news reports that circulated after the bitter 2000 presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush.

The stories about trashing White House facilities, such as popping the W key off of office keyboards, were debunked soon enough. Turns out some Bush staffers planted fake news to discredit the Clinton White House.

No such shenanigans locally.

“It wasn’t like that,” says Travis Thompson, who headed up Linda Lingle‘s 2002 transition after her election as governor. “They didn’t screw up the W’s. But there wasn’t a lot of support.”

The Lingle administration declined to speak with Civil Beat about what the 2010 transition will entail, so we spoke with key figures involved in the previous two transitions to get a sense of what to expect.

It also got an update from the governor-elect himself late Tuesday evening — including the fact that his campaign manager, Bill Kaneko, would lead the transition.

Cayetano-Lingle 2002

Thompson, a retired Boeing executive and Maui resident who was Lingle’s director of finance during her eight years as mayor of Maui, was asked by Lingle to head the transition team the morning after the election. He formerly had been the national committeeman for the Hawaii Republican Party.

“I flew over (to Honolulu) that afternoon,” said Thompson.

For the next three weeks the transition team worked out of Lingle’s campaign headquarters on Ala Moana Boulevard.

Thompson says his team received little support from the administration of Ben Cayetano, a Democrat who was completing his second and last term.

“We never did see the previous governor,” Thompson said. “They cleared out the fourth floor (of the State Capitol) about a week before the swearing in. We moved our filing cabinets over with a relatively small team and all the résumés.”

Cayetano’s team was hardly absent.

A member of the administration was reported to have contacted the Lingle campaign right after the election to begin working out transition details.

Then-Gov. Cayetano also asked his staff to help make the transition as smooth as possible, saying after a two-hour meeting between Cayetano and Lingle later that month, “We have offered our help, including anytime after the election. Our folks were saying, ‘Just anytime, give us a call.'”

Thompson’s task was to assemble committees of between seven and 15 people to review résumés and select three top candidates for each of the governor’s 17 department director and 23 deputy director positions.

There was a new position to fill, too: tourism liaison, something that Lingle had promised she would create if elected.

Currently the governor’s office lists 16 departments and a tourism liaison. Each Cabinet member requires state Senate approval.

The Lingle team was flooded with résumés — more than 1,100 in just the first few weeks following the election, according to news reports at the time. Applicants were encouraged to submit via e-mail to speed the process.

In addition to the top jobs, Lingle had to select other top aides. She immediately named Bob Awana her chief of staff and Lenny Klompus her communications director. Both had worked on her campaign.

Georgina Kawamura, who served as Lingle’s budget director when she was Maui mayor, was soon named state budget director; University of Hawaii at Manoa law professor Randy Roth was selected as her senior policy adviser; and Mark Bennett was picked as attorney general.

“She already knew who she wanted,” said Thompson.

Politics Not An Issue

For the other positions, Thompson said political affiliation was not a criteria.

“We didn’t ask who they voted for,” he said. “Take Russ Saito, for example. I have no clue as to whether he is a Republican or a Democrat. The criteria was to find the best.”

Saito would lead the Hawaii Department of Accounting and General Services. Saito, Kawamura and Klompus are still in their jobs nearly eight years later.

The Honolulu Advertiser reported that the number of top jobs totaled 194 and included “about two dozen people within the governor’s office and other key positions including the directors of various offices, the insurance commissioner and the state’s top labor negotiators.”

Because of the large number of résumés to sift through, only a handful of Cabinet positions were in place by that Thanksgiving. Thompson’s recollection is that most of the jobs were filled by the time Lingle was sworn in that Dec. 2.

(Thompson recollects he completed his work early in the new year, before the new state Legislature convened.)

In addition to top aides and Cabinet members, Lingle would eventually appoint some 1,200 people to 160 boards and commissions such as the Land Use Commission and Campaign Spending Commission.

The State Civil Service lists 14,000 professional, technical and service positions within 220 different program areas.

Waihee-Cayetano 1994

The shift from Cayetano to Lingle was between parties. When Cayetano took over from John D. Waihee III, he was serving as lieutenant governor.

Cayetano tells Civil Beat that did not necessarily make things easier.

“During my eight years, I only attended half a dozen Cabinet meetings,” he said. “I had very little interaction with Cabinet members, and most of my work was on (the after-school program) A-Plus. And at that time the LG ran the elections office, so I had things to do. Aiona doesn’t have that. The Legislature took that away when I got elected. That was my recommendation.”

Cayetano said he recommended it because Republicans “made such a big deal out of it” in suggesting conflict of interest.

Still, the former governor recalls that the transition went smoothly.

“Basically what happened was that the previous Cabinet briefed our people — briefing papers, how the office works, some of the issues facing an office that they were working on but hadn’t been completed,” he said.

Cayetano says the transition didn’t start for until several days after the election.

“I think there was a settling-down period of three or four days, maybe a week,” he said.

As with the incoming Lingle administration, the Cayetano administration resembled a job fair. According to a news report, Cayetano said he received “hundreds of applications in 1994 when he was first elected and screened them through committees before he interviewed finalists.”

The governor-elect also expressed frustration at the time that it was difficult to get talented applicants from the private sector “given the pay scale.” The salaries are in the low six figures.

Cayetano said that he left most of the transition details to his LG chief of staff, Charles Toguchi. Toguchi had managed Cayetano’s campaign and was the former Hawaii Department of Education Superintendent under Waihee.

Now a lobbyist, Toguchi was actively involved this year with the Abercrombie campaign and may play a role in his transition team and administration.

Lingle-Abercrombie 2010

Exactly when Abercrombie’s transition will begin wasn’t clear election night.

After the Sept. 18 primary, the victorious candidate took about a week’s down time on the neighbor islands before firing up his general election campaign.

Late Tuesday, Abercrombie said he and wife Nancie Caraway would take a brief respite — “Yeah, about an hour,” joked Caraway, a university scholar — and Abercrombie was already indicating he might hold a press conference as early as Wednesday.

When Lingle was first elected, she left her Ala Moana Boulvard headquarters at 3 a.m., got less than four hours sleep, took her usual pool swim at 7 a.m. and got a congratulatory phone call from then-President Bush around 10:30 a.m.

Of course, Lingle was the first Republican governor in 40 years — pretty exciting stuff. Abercrombie is the fifth Democratic governor in 48 years.

Because Democrats are back in power, there will likely be no shortage of job applicants. They could include many former lawmakers, including ones who were unsuccessful at running for higher office this year.

Asked about specific appointments Tuesday evening, Abercrombie expressed confidence he would have no problem finding qualified applicants. His picks are also likely to receive favorable confirmation hearings at the Democratically dominated Legislature.

When Lingle took over eight years ago, the House had 36 Democrats and 15 Republicans, while the Senate had 20 Democrats and five Republicans. The balance of power after Tuesday’s election is much more heavily in Democrats’ favor.

Which isn’t to say there won’t be bumps in the transition process.

In 2002, for example, lawmakers chose not to fund money to pay deputy directors in favor of supporting social programs.

“They also didn’t appropriate money to pay for 54 of the 60 positions in the governor’s office. And they cut in half the $100,000 in transition funds provided for by state law,” the Associated Press reported.

Lingle promised that the money would be found somewhere. She also saw to it that a nonprofit corporation was set up to raise about $350,000 to pay for her inauguration ceremony.

“Lingle spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka said none of the money for inaugural events will come from either taxpayers or the governor-elect’s campaign coffers,” the Advertiser reported. “The Legislature appropriated $50,000 for the gubernatorial transition, even though Gov. Ben Cayetano had sought $100,000. Yonenaka said money is being directed toward finding a Cabinet.”

Lingle’s folks also quibbled that Cayetano’s team had left them with a two-year budget that had been “cobbled together.”

State law requires that the Legislature receive the executive budget 30 days before the next session begins — in this case, Jan. 19.

Meanwhile, Cayetano told Civil Beat his incoming administration discovered that an emergency appropriation made by the Waihee administration’s closing days to address a previous budget shortfall “actually turned out to be a recurring expense.” Cayetano said he had to address the appropriation, “which was something like $150 million” — in his first state-of-the-state address in 1995.

There can also be lingering bad feelings between opponents.

Speaking of the 2002 transition, Cayetano told Civil Beat, “You know, my relationship with Lingle was not exactly a good one. She never got over the (1998) loss.”

Cayetano says that relationship has since improved.

Also that year, according to Lenny Klompus, then-Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono — who lost the governorship to Lingle by 17,000 votes — extended no congratulatory call to Lingle.

Hirono was elected to her third consecutive term in Congress Tuesday night.

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