Linda Lingle told her fellow Republicans on Saturday that the chance to elect a new U.S. senator from Hawaii comes around just once every 25 years.

“Let’s make the most of this once-in-a-quarter-century opportunity,” she said in her keynote address at the Hawaii Republican Party annual convention in Waikiki. “Let’s come together to make history like we did years ago when I beat Mazie the first time.”

That would be U.S. Rep Mazie Hirono, the Democrat who faces former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Aug. 11 primary.

Lingle was referring to her defeat of Hirono in the 2002 governor’s race.

It’s too soon to say who Lingle will face in the Nov. 6 general election.

But Lingle, who reminded convention delegates that Hawaii has had only five U.S. senators since statehood and that only one was a Republican, clearly believes that the candidate stressing bipartisanship, collaboration and experience will be the one Hawaii sends to Washington, D.C.

“The problems we face are not Democrat problems, not Republican problems,” said Lingle. “They are American problems.”

If Americans approved of bickering, she said, Congress would have a 90 percent approval rating instead of just the 9 percent it is today.

“Breaking the gridlock in our nation’s capital will require common sense and the ability to compromise and the experience to make tough decisions — the kind of things I had to do as governor,” she said.

Democrats Already on Offense

On Friday, as Republican candidates attended workshops at the Hilton Hawaiian Village to sharpen their campaign skills, the Democratic Party of Hawaii was already in attack mode.

“It is no big surprise that Linda Lingle will finally announce her support for Mitt Romney at the Hawaii State Republican Convention on Saturday, ending her political advertising claims that she is non-partisan,” said Chuck Freedman, the party’s communications director, in a press release. “Linda Lingle has a highly partisan track record as a key spokesperson for the national Republican Party. Four years ago she launched a multi-state campaign for Sarah Palin for Vice President and against Barack Obama.”

Informed of Freedman’s remarks, Lenny Klompus, Lingle’s communications director, said, “We’re living in the here and now. They are living in the past.”

Lingle made no mention of Romney or Palin on Saturday. Instead, her focus was on bringing her local party together.

To that end, Lingle heaped praise on David Chang, the party’s youthful, passionate chair, and the team he has put together. Not mentioned was the name of Jonah Kaauwai, the former chair that Lingle and other party leaders pushed out last year after the party racked up debt and failed to win many seats.

Kaauwai also didn’t appear to be in attendance at the convention Saturday.

Chang reminds Lingle of herself, it seems, the party chair who in 2000 saw the GOP pick up seven new seats in the Hawaii Legislature.

She recalled the sense of “hope and goodwill” that election night, not only among Republicans but also independents and “more than a few Democrats glad there would be more checks and balances in the state Legislature.”

Twelve years later, of course, Republicans remain a minority in the Legislature and, except for Charles Djou‘s brief stint in Congress, absent from the state’s delegation in D.C.

Her party’s goal, said Lingle, is to win enough seats to have a “balanced two-party system of government.”

‘Winnable’ Races

Lingle described her Senate race and Djou’s rematch against U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa for the 1st Congressional District seat as “winnable races.”

“Mostly, it requires a unified party,” she said.

Lingle said the races — she did not mention the 2nd Congressional District race, where the GOP has not fielded a strong candidate — would not be easy but added that none of her races have been easy.

(One might argue that her 2006 re-election was rather easy, when she and Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona creamed the Democrat ticket by a 2-to-1 margin.)

The way to win those races, Lingle said, was to get out the vote and spread the party’s message of limited government, fiscal responsibility and a strong national defense.

“With a renewed sense of energy and passion and enthusiasm,” said Lingle, the GOP can “ensure our message is heard around the state and country on Election Day. The outcome of the election will be what kind of country we will be and what our place in this world will be.”

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