Subscribe To our E-Newsletter
Republican's Lei of the Land
Linda Lingle is used to beating the odds.
Which is why the Jewish Republican who served two terms as governor of Hawaii believes she has a good shot at becoming the newest U.S. senator from the Aloha State.
She's mounting her campaign with the help of donors from the "mainland," including Jews in Philadelphia, where she recently stopped as part of her third and final fundraising trip across the country.
She is outspending her two Democratic opponents, who are competing in the Democratic primary on Aug. 11. The winner in November will replace U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, a Democrat who is retiring. The other Hawaiian senator is Daniel Inouye, another Democrat who has held his seat for nearly 50 years and who Lingle acknowledges has "done a good job" for the state of Hawaii.
Lingle is certain that President Barack Obama will carry the predominantly Democratic state where he was born come Election Day. But she also is hoping that the Hawaiian people, whom she calls "experienced ticket-splitters," will cross party lines to vote for a Republican senator.
In an election year when control of the Senate is at stake, current polls put her tied with or slightly ahead of her Democratic opponents, and national analysts are calling the race a toss-up.
During a fundraiser earlier this summer at the Wynnewood home of her cousins, Jerry and Kathy Drew, she touted her history as a moderate Republican who is used to working across partisan lines, first as mayor of Maui, then as governor.
The 59-year-old former journalist -- she founded and published a community newspaper on the island of Maui -- credits her newspaper background with helping her to recognize that in politics, too, "there are often more than two sides to any particular issue."
Asked in an interview after her presentation here whether there is room for moderate women in today's GOP, she emphasized the need for more lawmakers like herself.
She cited her mentors, Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), both of whom have campaigned for her, as the kind of moderate Republican senator she aspires to be.
There's a strong group, she said, "very fiscally conservative, strong on national security" who tend to be "moderate and open-minded" on social issues.
Asked about the recent exodus from Congress of some moderates, like Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Lingle said: "That's why they need people like us; it's exactly why."
Acknowledging the intense partisanship in Washington, she vowed to become a "gang member" in D.C., alluding to the terminology used in recent years for those rare bipartisan efforts to get something done. The "Gang of Six," for instance, was a bipartisan group that tried unsuccessfully to reach an agreement on the deficit last year.
"I will be among those groups that seek compromise," she said.
She says her ability to work across the aisle helped get her elected as the first Republican governor in Hawaii in 40 years and then to achieve some results.
After her second term as governor ended in 2010, she served as a founding member of the governor's council at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. She's generated national headlines by launching her own Cable station, fortuitously sandwiched between Fox News and CNN.
Her calm, even style has served her well, according to political insiders.
At the fundraiser here, she passed up several opportunities to take direct shots at the president, particularly with regard to his foreign policy.
When asked by a questioner about what he termed Obama's "failed policies," she said Americans and American leaders in general tend to see the world through the prism of an American.
"I think that's a big mistake," she said, citing her experience working with Asian nations, where the values and the way they see the world are different.
She did, however, take issue with the Obama administration's approach on issues such as Israel and Iran, where she asserted that the government has to speak with one voice.
"I think that's been missing," she said, citing as an example what she called discrepancies between the president's words to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that "all options are on the table" with regard to Iran and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, who told Congress that Iran is a "rational actor."
Lingle credited the Republican Jewish Coalition, on whose board she sits, with helping her raise funds all over the country. She traveled last summer with the group to Israel,where she said she learned, among other things, that the Israeli government supports continued U.S. aid to the Palestinians, an issue she would likely confront if elected to the Senate.
On domestic issues, she said that aspects of the Affordable Care Act are positive, but they need to be paid for in ways that the law doesn't properly address. And she opposes gay marriage but believes that same-sex couples should have "access to many of the same rights" as married couples.
She described herself as "fairly involved" with the 12,000-member Jewish community in Hawaii, which represents about 1 percent of the state. She said she spreads herself out to celebrate different holidays at different synagogues, including Chabad.
"They all claim me," she said, "and I'm grateful for it."