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Election will measure reach of GOP influence

By Richard Borreca

LAST UPDATED: 1:39 a.m. HST, Nov 2, 2010

If today's election is critical for Hawaii's future, it is equally important in setting up the winners and losers in the 2012 campaign.

A Republican sweep tonight obviously means that the Democratic Party's grip on Hawaii politics would wither.

If Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona is elected tonight to carry on the GOP control of the governorship started in 2002 by Gov. Linda Lingle, it would mean that there has been an historic shift in Hawaii political philosophy.

And if Charles Djou holds on to his seat in Congress, it would solidify that seismic shift in the political thinking of Hawaii voters. Republicans in Hawaii have long said they believe Hawaii is becoming more conservative and less interested in government solutions. A victory tonight would prove it.

Also to a large extent, an Aiona victory would be a realization that Hawaii's politically engaged Christian or faith-based community is able to put the boots on the ground needed to win an election.

For decades, Hawaii politicians have heard that the Christian-influenced voters were readying a march to the polls, only to see it collapse.

So voters tonight are also measuring the strength of religion in local politics. The Republicans are gambling that their cavalcade of faith-based candidates, running from governor down through the state House and Senate, will win.

A win would show that religion works in politics and a loss would mean religion's influence is tenuous at best.

Lingle's fate would also become much clearer if Aiona wins. If Lingle's lieutenant governor is running the show, Lingle will not have to worry about diminishing or ignoring her legacy. Aiona will build on it and Lingle will use it as a platform to run for the Senate in 2012.

If Democrats win, Lingle's fortunes are obviously reversed. An Abercrombie victory can be seen as a rejection of her administration of the state. Lingle's eight years will become a target and not a model.

An Abercrombie win will mean that Democrats control both the Legislature and the executive. The number of vetoed bill will shrink or disappear, as Abercrombie has already opened up lines of communication with Democratic legislative leaders. After spending decades in the Legislature himself, Abercrombie is accustomed to the give and take of legislative negotiations.

A Hanabusa victory will also mark her as a bright new Democratic light. If one of Hawaii's two octogenarian senators is unable to hold office, Hanabusa would be included as one of several viable successors.

For Abercrombie, however, a win, would not mean vacation time. He will find that the only thing more unpleasant than trying to balance the state budget will be trying to balance the competing demands and imagined needs of majority Democrats.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at rborreca@staradvertiser.com.

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