LIHU‘E — Former Gov. Linda Lingle shared her views on economic growth, energy sustainability, military defense and national debt with a small group of community leaders during a coffee session Friday morning at JJ’s Broiler.
She announced Tuesday that she would be running in November for the seat that Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai‘i, will leave when he retires from Congress.
Lingle served as mayor of Maui County for eight years before winning the gubernatorial race in November 2001. Re-elected in 2005, she served as Hawai‘i governor until last year. Upon leaving office, she said she told herself she was done with public service.
But a change of heart — and a desire to make a difference — prompted her to give it yet another shot — this time on the national level.
She said she sees herself as a representative of the people, not just Republicans. While governor she had been a target of criticism inside her party for not hiring enough Republicans.
Lingle said there are cuts in government that need to be made, but what’s really going to help the country to reduce its $14 trillion national debt is stimulating economic growth.
To protect the economy, Lingle said she would promote a law mandating that every time the government passes a new law, it would have to do a Job Impact Statement, analyzing what impacts it would have in the economy.
Lingle also said she would like to bring a more Asia-Pacific focus to the Senate, because roughly 25 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product comes from that region.
Another hot topic for the candidate is the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kaua‘i’s Westside.
She said the national debt has to be brought under control, but PMRF has to be funded. At a time when the federal government is looking at major cuts in the military, PMRF should be preserved, she said. The base sits in a strategic location, brings roughly $50 million to the local economy and employs about 900 people.
PMRF’s location, she said, is crucial for protecting Asian countries in case of war. It affects the entire world, because if the Asian countries can not grow in a peaceful world the global economy will not be able to recover, she added.
Hawai‘i’s two Senate seats have been held by Democrats for years. Lingle said it would be very important for the state to be represented by a member of each party, to ensure the state has representation in the Senate’s majority regardless of which party has power.
Promoting tourism at a national level would be one of Lingle’s initiatives. Some 14 million people nationwide work in the visitor industry, she said. But a difficult visa process is one the main hurdles in the business.
“After 9/11 our country just clamped down on visas,” she said.
The Chinese have surpassed the Japanese as the highest spending traveler — spending an average of $360 per day. Lingle, who has spent time in China, said she was told by China’s authority on tourism that Hawai‘i does not need to build a tourism market there; it’s the Chinese dream to visit Hawai‘i.
“Just let us come,” Lingle said she was told in China.
Being a Communist country is not the issue for easing issuance of visas, she said. The main problem frowned upon by U.S. authorities is the rate of tourists who disappear in the crowd, illegally extending their stay in the U.S.
The Hawai‘i Tourism Authority on Friday announced that despite the demand from China to visit Hawai‘i remaining high, China Eastern Airlines suspended four flights on its Shanghai to Honolulu route.
“However, obtaining visas to travel to the U.S. continues to be an obstacle,” said Mike McCartney, HTA president and CEO. He added that he will be traveling to China with Gov. Neil Abercrombie this weekend to meet with officials from the U.S. Embassy to discuss streaming the visa process.
When Lingle was governor she passed a law mandating that by 2030 the state should have 70 percent of its energy coming from renewable and efficient sources. The law surely has its environmental benefits, but Lingle said it was designed mainly to address security issues such as the threat of not having any or enough oil available in case of a war, disaster or shortage.
This year’s Senate race plays almost as a deja vu of the 2001 gubernatorial race.
In 2001, former Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai‘i, and Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai‘i, faced each other in the Democratic primaries. Hirono won but lost the governor race to Lingle. This year’s race for Akaka’s soon-to-be-empty seat has the same players.
Hirono was on Kaua‘i a few weeks ago, when she met with about 15 community members at a coffee shop in Kapa‘a for a similar session.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.