Lingle, Linda

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LINGLE, LINDA (1953– ), governor of Hawaii. Born Linda Cutter in St. Louis, Missouri, she moved with her family to southern California at the age of 12, attending public school in Van Nuys. She graduated from California State University at Northridge in 1975 and then relocated to Hawaii to join her father. In Honolulu, Lingle worked as public information officer for the Hawaii Teamsters and Hotel Workers Union. After moving to Moloka'i, she founded the Moloka'i Free Press, a community newspaper serving the island's 6,000 residents.

In 1980 Lingle began her political career with election to the Maui County Council, where she served two five-year terms, first as a representative of Moloka'i, then as a member-at-large. In 1990 she was elected mayor of Maui County. At 37, she was the youngest person to be elected mayor there; she was also the first woman and the only non-Maui-born person to have held the office. She served two terms as mayor, focusing on the growth of the tourism industry and the development of new jobs.

Lingle ran for governor of Hawaii in 1998, losing by less than one percent of the vote. She was nevertheless elected chair of the Republican Party in Hawaii; during her tenure the Republican Party gained seats in both houses of Hawaii's state legislature. In 2002 Lingle was again nominated as the Republican candidate for governor, running on a platform of "new beginnings" that emphasized reform. She was elected as Hawaii's first woman governor. With former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin, she is one of only two Jewish women governors in U.S. history.

As governor, Lingle worked to promote tourism and economic growth and to balance the state budget. She cited increased access to health care as a priority, as well as the reduction of crime and substance abuse. Considered a rising star in the Republican Party, Lingle served as temporary convention chair for the 2004 Republican National Convention, fulfilling the role of permanent convention chair Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House of Representatives, when Hastert was not on the dais.

In 2004 Lingle signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the state of Hawaii and the government of Israel, intended to promote cooperation for research and development in the fields of agriculture and aquaculture. She has continually claimed that her Jewish identity has given her a greater sensitivity to the diversity of religious and ethnic backgrounds of her constituents.

[Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)]