Could the Superferry Controversy Define Governor Lingle's Legacy?

Jerry Burris
Jerry Burris

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- As Governor Linda Lingle, R-Hawaii, gets set to make her case in a town hall meeting on Kauai, how will this Superferry controversy impact her political legacy?

Until this situation, the governor has enjoyed a popular tenure. She easily won re-election last year with almost two-thirds of the votes, but the Superferry controversy could change how history looks at her legacy.

Images of Kauai protestors confronting Hawaii Superferry passengers have been burned in our collective memory. This controversy has been a thorn on Governor Lingle's -- otherwise trouble-free -- political side.

"I think the sense is they fell behind it on this one," said Jerry Burris, a political columnist. "The situation got ahead of them in their ability to manage it."

Burris said the governor's handling of the Superferry situation has harmed her on two fronts.

"She's been very anxious to present a pro-business environment and culture of Hawaii and this is a bad blow for that. It looks like it's anti-business," he said. "She also gets hurt on the other side. She looks like, she appears to have ignored environmental concerns in the interest of getting this thing rolling. So, it's sort of a lose-lose for Governor Lingle."

The governor met with folks on Kauai Thursday evening, to reinforce the penalties for violating the Superferry security zone.

"I hope she, and I'm sure she will," said Burris. "She's smart enough to do this. It'll be a matter of listening rather than telling them what to do."

Burris said her handling of the Superferry controversy could become a big part of her legacy.

"I can't really predict the future but I think this will always be something that people will mention whey they mention the Lingle eight years," he said. "They'll say, ' Well, Superferry was really a hard time for her.'"

He added, this may be a time for the governor to step back a bit.

"You hardly ever win when you use force against people who are passionate and defending their interests," said Burris. "You hardly ever win no matter how right you are."

The Superferry will head back to Kauai on Wednesday.