Lingle previously ran for the State's highest office in 1998, only to lose to Governor Ben Cayetano by less than 1% of the vote. She remained active in State politics as leader of the State's Republican Party. The election of 2002 was not as close as 1998. Lingle defeated Democratic candidate by 17,362 votes or over 4% of all votes cast.
As stated in her official biography, "Linda Lingle was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1953. When she was 12, her family moved to Southern California, where she graduated from Birmingham High, a public school in Van Nuys. In 1975, she graduated from California State University at Northridge, where she was editor of the Journalism Department Newspaper and the Alumni Newsletter. She moved to Hawaii after graduation, following her father who had come a couple years earlier to open Cutter Ford in 'Aiea."
Following her arrival in Hawaii, Lingle worked as the public information officer for the Hawaii Teamsters and Hotel Workers Union in Honolulu, and then moved to Moloka'i where she founded the Moloka'i Free Press, a community newspaper serving the 6,000 residents of the island.
In 1980, Lingle was elected to the Maui County Council where she served for ten years, six years as a representative of Molokai and then four as an at-large member. In 1990, Lingle made history with her election as Mayor of Maui County. She was the youngest person elected Mayor of Maui County, the first woman and the only non-Maui born person ever elected to that office.
During her two terms as Mayor of Maui County, Lingle demonstrated her recognition of the importance of continued growth of the tourist industry for the future health of Hawaii. As stated in her biography, "Throughout her term, job growth was faster on Maui than anywhere else in the state. Because of her innovative and collaborative approach in developing tourism, Maui was voted 'Best Island in the World' in the annual Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards Poll for five consecutive years."
Lingle's election as governor of Hawaii comes at a time when her experience in developing tourism and new jobs on Maui is desperately needed on a statewide basis. Hawaii continues to suffer serious economic woes in the wake of September 11, 2002. Her challenge will not, however, be easy, as the Republican Party lost four seats in the 51-member state House lowering their total to only 15 seats. The GOP did, however, gain two seats in the state Senate, bringing their total to five in the 25-member Senate.
In order for Lingle to succeed, she will need the cooperation of many of the still-powerful elected members of the Hawaii Democratic Party. The Democrats continue their firm lock on the state legislature which must approve not only Lingle's appointments, but also her legislative agenda. For the first time in 40 years, the Democrats will need to learn to work with a governor of the opposition party.
Only time will tell whether the new governor and legislature can find a way to work with each other, rather than against each other, for the benefit of the entire State of Hawaii.
Photo courtesy of lindalingle2002.com.