POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 13, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 03:17 p.m. HST, Aug 13, 2012
Former Gov. Linda Lingle on Sunday sought to tie U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono to a deeply unpopular Congress, while Hirono said national Republicans do not care that Lingle portrays herself as bipartisan in Hawaii because she would vote with their interests in the U.S. Senate.
The rivals for Senate in the November general election directed their attention at each other in earnest on the day after the primary.
Lingle said there has been a lot of talk nationally over the past year about the economic divide between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, but she said voters should focus on the 12 percent — the job approval rating of Congress in some public opinion surveys.
"My opponent is one of the 12-percenters. She and her colleagues have put their political careers and their political parties ahead of the country, and they have betrayed the American people," the Republican said during a news conference at her campaign headquarters off Dillingham Boulevard. "Incumbents of both parties have created the serious problems we face today, including putting our senior citizens' future and our veterans' benefits at risk."
Lingle, repeating a theme used by former Congressman Ed Case against Hirono in the primary, said the liberal Hirono is part of the problem in Washington, D.C.
She described Hirono as a partisan insider "with no record of accomplishments who believes this election is about President (Barack) Obama and difficult childhoods," a reference to the congresswoman's use of her personal immigration story in the campaign.
Hirono, speaking at a Democratic Unity Breakfast at the Ala Moana Hotel, said a Lingle victory would undermine the Hawaii-born Obama.
"Why should people in Hawaii who love Barack Obama, who support his agenda of job creation, fairness, equal opportunities, why should they vote for him and then put a check next to Linda Lingle, who represents the party that is the antithesis of all of this?" she said. "Think about it."
Despite Lingle's bipartisan gloss, Hirono said, the former governor is tied to the national Republican agenda and would repeal the federal health care reform law and extend the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. She also said Hawaii voters would not forget teacher furloughs, the collapse of the Hawaii Superferry project, and Lingle's campaigning for U.S. Sen. John McCain and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the mainland in 2008.
"They do not care how she portrays herself in Hawaii, although we do," Hirono said of national Republicans. "They do not care because she is that one vote they need for the four votes to take over the Senate."
Both Hirono and Lingle said after the primary Saturday that they are eager to debate. Lingle said Sunday that she has agreed to appear at 18 debates and forums, including on Wednesday before the Maui Chamber of Commerce, and would attend regardless of Hirono's schedule.
Hirono's 57 percent-to-41 percent victory over Case in the primary should give her confidence for November.
Hirono swept all four counties, with a solid 10-point gap on Oahu and staggering dominance on the neighbor islands. A district-by-district analysis by the Star-Advertiser shows that she took 47 of 51 state House districts, falling to the moderate Case only in more conservative districts such as Hawaii Kai, Aina Haina and Kailua, and in Case's former House district in Manoa.
Case did worse against Hirono than he did in the primary against U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka in 2006, when he lost 54 percent to 45 percent and captured 10 House districts.
Lingle invested in an extensive advertising campaign before the primary to reconnect with voters and help prepare for November. But only about 17 percent of primary voters marked Republican ballots, higher than usual but significantly less than the 29 percent that turned out for Lingle in the primary for governor in 2002.
"I think what Mazie was able to do was that she connected early with people that were going to be voting in a Democratic primary," said Andy Winer, a Democratic strategist who advised the Hirono campaign. "The values that she brought in terms of the issues, when she was talking about Social Security or jobs, those were things that did resonate with the base of the Democratic Party. And those are the people that we knew would show up and vote."
Case urged Democrats at the Unity Breakfast to embrace inclusion and live up to the party's big-tent history. He told Hirono that she earned her victory, but he did not make a direct appeal for his supporters to back her against Lingle.
"The way for us to continue to earn the mantle of leadership, both in the state and the country, is to continue to live the big tent," he said. "Not just to talk about it, but to live it."
Hirono, asked by reporters how she would reach out to moderate Democrats and independents who favored Case, said, "Regardless of whether you're a Republican, Democrat or independent, we care about Hawaii. We need to move forward. The Republican agenda takes us backwards in terms of support for seniors, for women, for working people."