Linda Lingle

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Linda Lingle is a former two-term Hawaii governor and most recently was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012.

She lost the 2012 general election to Democrat Mazie Hirono 37 percent to 62 percent.

In the August primary, she garnered 90 percent of the vote securing the nomination from the Hawaii Republican Party.

Linda Lingle came into the governorship in 2002 as Hawaii’s first female governor, the first Hawaii mayor elected governor and the first Republican in 40 years.

Born Linda Cutter on June 4, 1953, in St. Louis, Mo., Lingle moved with her family to Southern California when she was 12. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge.

Lingle moved to Honolulu in 1975, where she worked as a public information officer for a hotel workers union. A year later she moved to Molokai, where she started a community newspaper called the Molokai Free Press.

In 1980 Lingle was elected to the Maui County Council, where she served for 10 years. In 1990, she ran to succeed Maui Mayor Hannibal Tavares, who was limited to two terms. In the election, Lingle upset her Democratic opponent, Elmer Cravalho, who was a former Maui mayor and a former speaker of the Hawaii State House of Representatives. Only 37, Lingle was the youngest person elected Maui mayor, and the first female. She was re-elected in 1994.

Limited to two terms, Lingle challenged Democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano in 1998 and nearly won. Lingle then served as chair of the Hawaii Republican Party, building its membership and visibility. At one point Republicans held 19 of the 51 seats in the state House and five of the 25 seats in the state Senate. By 2010, however, the House had only six Republicans and the Senate just two.

When Lingle became governor in 2002, she promised a “new beginning” for Hawaii government, including establishing fiscal responsibility and reforming public education. She was re-elected in 2006 in a landslide.

But Lingle made little headway in education, failing repeatedly to break up the Hawaii Department of Educationinto separate districts, a move she argued would result in stronger local control of schools and greater accountability.

Her decision to campaign for President Bush’s re-election in 2004 and presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 was criticized at home by Democrats, and a downturn in the state’s economy beginning in 2008 shrunk tax revenues and forced budget cuts. Her last year in office was distinguished by her handling of Furlough Fridaysand her veto of the 2010 civil unions bill.

Lingle’s popularity declined, and the number of Republicans in elected office in the islands is lower than when she came to power. Her lieutenant governor, James “Duke” Aiona, was soundly defeated by Democrat Neil Abercrombie.

Lingle’s accomplishments in office include building ties between Hawaii and Asia, promoting clean-energy initiatives, pushing the Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to award more lands to beneficiaries and coordinating major upgrades of the state’s harbors, highways and airports.

The state Senate in August 2010 voted 14-8 to reject Lingle’s nominee to replace Ronald Moon as chief justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court. Katherine Leonard would have been the first woman chief justice and the first graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii to sit on the court. The Legislature accepted her second nomination, Associate Supreme Court Justice Mark Recktenwald.

After years of debate on gay rights and months of discussion on the merits of one proposal, Lingle on July 6, 2010, vetoed HB 444. The bill would have extended to same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same legal rightsand obligations as marriage.

Lingle said the process by which the bill was approved by the House on the last day of the legislative session was “flawed.” She called for a vote by all the people of Hawaii as the best way to deal with the question of whether civil unions should become law.

On May 25, 2010, Lingle announced a solution to end Furlough Fridays, which gave Hawaii a national black eye. Students missed 17 school days in the 2009-2010 school year, giving the state the lowest number of school days in the nation, at 163. In mid-April a small group of parents, their children, and supporters occupied Lingle’s fifth floor office at the state Capitol over an eight-day period. Some protestors were cited and arrested, and Lingle was criticized for not defusing the situation by meeting personally with the ad-hoc group, called Save Our Schools.

Lingle countered that Save Our Schools had “misguided and misdirected” demands and should instead have directed its frustration at the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which Lingle believed was asking for too much state money to end the furlough standoff. In the end, she used $57 million from the state’s hurricane relief fund and a $10 million, interest-free line of credit from local banks to bring teachers and other education employees back to work on 17 planned furlough fridays in the 2010-2011 school year.

Lingle left office in December 2010. Her profile among national Republicans has grown over the years, especially during the administration of President George W. Bush.

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Linda Lingle
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