Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda Lingle lost all of Maui County's 35 precincts, including tiny Kalaupapa, on Tuesday as Democratic Congresswoman Mazie Hirono rolled on to win the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Akaka.
The election results were a reversal of fortune for Lingle, who defeated Hirono in the 2002 governor's race. The precinct-by-precinct results in Maui County in the Lingle-Hirono contest show in detail what a sweeping victory Democrats enjoyed Tuesday.
Looking at how Hirono and Lingle fared in head-to-head precinct contests shows how Republicans fared overall because Lingle - foremost of any Republican - should have been able to hold her own among voters on Maui, Molokai and Lanai.
Beginning her political career on Molokai, Lingle served five consecutive terms as a Maui County Council member from 1981 to 1991 and two terms as mayor from 1991 to 1999. In those races, Lingle relied on sometimes GOP-leaning areas such as South Maui and parts of West Maui and Upcountry.
Maui's most reliable Democratic areas have been in Kahului, Wailuku, portions of Lahaina, and on Molokai and Lanai.
But county voters across the board apparently have soured on Lingle. Statewide on Tuesday, she took 36.8 percent of the vote to Hirono's 61.6 percent. In Maui County, though, Lingle fared worse, getting only 30.9 percent of the vote to Hirono's 67.8 percent. Lingle lost by 18,058 votes in Maui County, taking 15,094 votes to Hirono's 33,152.
In looking at the county's precincts, Hirono's greatest winning margin came from voters who cast ballots at the Haiku Community Center. Including absentee mail and walk-in votes, voters from the Haiku precinct favored Hirono 2,611 to 803, or by 1,808 votes.
Hirono's other top-five winning margins came from voters at the Kula Community Center (984 votes), Kahului Elementary School (974), Maui Waena Intermediate School (953) and Iao Intermediate School (943).
While Hirono defeated Lingle in all precincts, the Republican's smallest losing margins came at precincts with smaller numbers of registered voters.
For example, Lingle lost by only 10 votes (91-81) at the Kaunoa Senior Center, but that precinct is the second smallest in Maui County with only 268 registered voters. The smallest precinct, which was counted among Maui County votes for the U.S. Senate race, was at Kalaupapa, where Lingle lost by 23 votes (25-2).
At precincts with more than 4,000 registered voters, Lingle fared best at Kamalii Elementary School, where she lost by 192 votes (1,328-1,136); and at the Lahaina Civic Center, where she lost by 253 votes (1,552-1,299).
Lingle Maui Campaign Manager Stephanie Aveiro said she found it difficult to explain the tidal shift of Maui County voter support away from the former governor and Maui mayor.
"I guess the population on Maui has changed," she said. "She was appreciated when she was mayor. She did a great job as governor . . . She did a good job in the debates."
Lingle also traveled and campaigned on all of the Neighbor Islands, Aveiro said.
"I can't explain it. I don't know," she said. "I do think that she was caught in the crosshairs of the very polarized Republican and Democratic national races."
Aveiro also pointed out it was the first time Lingle had run for an election - except during her council terms - when there was a presidential election at the same time.
Not surprisingly, Maui County's Republican and Democratic party leaders saw things through different prisms a day after Tuesday's elections.
"It's a Democratic state. What are you going to do?" said Cindy Sue Clark, the Maui County Republican Party chairwoman. "We're a one-party state. I think it's terrible. One party rules everything."
Clark said voters were given a choice between Hirono, a "rubber stamp" for the Democratic Party, and Lingle, who is articulate and who would have served the people of Hawaii in a nonpartisan way.
Maui County Democratic Party Chairman Todd Craine said Lingle never would have worked in a bipartisan way in Congress.
"I don't think she had the interests of Hawaii at heart, and I think it reflects in the vote," he said.
Clark said the thrust of Hirono's campaign against Lingle was to paint her as a Republican.
"What's so bad about being a Republican?" she said, adding that the GOP wants government not to be as intrusive in people's lives. "We believe in free enterprise . . . We want to live as free individuals. We're taxed to death.
"I don't think people use their brains when they vote," she said. "They vote because it's a religionlike thing."
Craine said voters remembered some of Lingle's missteps while she was governor, including closing schools on Furlough Fridays to save the state money and the Hawaii Superferry "debacle."
"You can't make yourself look like a saint if you have a record of poor performance," he said.
During the campaign, Lingle "falsely claimed" that U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye supported her, Craine said.
He said he believes that Lingle was hurt by the "intransigence" of Republicans in Congress who did "nothing to support the president."
"They've been the party of 'no,' " he said. "It's real obvious which party has been pouring cement on the train tracks."
Maui County reported the lowest total voter turnout in the state at 56.8 percent. Kauai County led the state with the highest voter turnout at 62.9 percent, followed closely by the City and County of Honolulu at 62.8 percent and Hawaii County at 61.1 percent.
At Maui County polls (not including absentee mail and walk-in voting), the highest turnout was at the Kaunoa Senior Center (53 percent), followed by Lanai High and Elementary School (41.2 percent), the Mayor Eddie Tam Memorial Center in Makawao (40.9 percent), the Paia Community Center (40.3 percent) and at the Kilohana Community Center on Molokai (39.3 percent). The lowest precinct turnout came at one of two Baldwin High School polling sites (29.1 percent), while polls at Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. in Wailuku and Maui High School both recorded voter turnout of 29.9 percent.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.