Hawaii: Linda Lingle Explains Being Wooed to Run

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Posted March 7, 2012 at 11:59pm

The story of how former Gov. Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) decided to run for Senate in a year President Barack Obama tops the ballot dates back to the middle of her second term as governor.

That’s when National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) began recruiting Lingle, she said Wednesday in an interview with Roll Call.

Lingle was in Washington, D.C., this week on the tail end of a mainland fundraising swing she began on Feb. 16. She had an event in Baltimore on Wednesday night and will stop in San Diego today before heading back to Hawaii.

Despite declining Cornyn’s entreaties several times before leaving office at the end of 2010, the calls from Republican Senators increased considerably after Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) announced his retirement last March.

After that, calls poured in from Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Susan Collins (Maine) urging Lingle to consider a bid. In June, the NRSC set up meetings on Capitol Hill for Lingle to discuss running in a Democratic-
leaning state with Republican Senators in similar situations, including Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Scott Brown (Mass.).

Lingle believes Hawaii is better off with a Senator from each party but said she has no plans to support every piece of legislation Republicans sponsor.

“I wanted to make sure the people recruiting me knew what they were getting,” Lingle said, noting that she wouldn’t be representing the kind of conservatives that can be found in a state such as Oklahoma.

“They’re very practical people,” Lingle said of her potential colleagues. “They just want a majority.”

All systems were go when Lingle secured her former state Adjutant General Robert Lee to serve as campaign manager, and she made a swing across the islands to tell her supporters of her decision before announcing on Oct. 11.

After traveling across the islands again, Lingle embarked on a 32-day fundraising trip which helped her raise nearly $1.8 million in the fourth quarter, far outpacing Democrats Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case.

Lingle said Collins will stump for her in April, offering a strong example of how a moderate Republican woman from a Democratic state can have influence in the Senate. Despite the advantages the Democratic nominee in the state will inevitably have, not the least of which is an endorsement from Obama, Lingle believes her defeat of Hirono in the 2002 gubernatorial election and her dominating 2006 re-election are proof she can triumph again.