POSTED: 1:04 a.m. HST, May 20, 2012
Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case has asked the Democratic Party of Hawaii to host a series of forums across the state where voters can compare him and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono side by side before the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in August.
In a letter to the party chairman Tuesday, Case called for 25 joint appearances during which he and Hirono would discuss public policy issues. He said the format would be preferable to a few statewide television debates, which has become the staple of high-profile Hawaii campaigns.
"I think we should go out there and let folks size us up personally and side by side. It's really the ultimate judgment that voters can make when they take a look personally," Case said in an interview. "There's so much in a modern statewide campaign that's artificial and removed from voters, it's no wonder that voters are disenchanted and disengaged. So I just think this is a great way to re-engage folks."
Dante Carpenter, the party's chairman, said the party is open to the idea, not only for the U.S. Senate primary, but perhaps for other campaigns as well. He said the party had been thinking about something similar before Case's request. He said it is unlikely the party would organize 25 primary events, however.
"It helps to galvanize the party constituency as well as expose the candidates," Carpenter said. "So I think it's a good idea."
A spokeswoman for the Hirono campaign said the congresswoman would release her proposed criteria for joint appearances with Case.
"It's important for people to hear directly from the candidates — and for the candidates to hear directly from the people of Hawaii — which is why congresswoman Hirono holds frequent coffee talks and other events around the state," the spokeswoman said. "During the campaign she will participate in constructive forums which provide voters useful information, have meaningful reach and do not conflict with her congressional duties. We will be releasing our proposed criteria for evaluating joint appearances."
Case trails Hirono in fundraising and early endorsements in the campaign to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who is not seeking re-election. Calling for debates is a common tactic in underdog campaigns, because debates put the candidates on equal footing and create opportunities to change voter perceptions.
John Carroll, an attorney and former state lawmaker running in the Republican primary for Senate, on Tuesday challenged former Gov. Linda Lingle, the leading Republican contender, to a series of debates. He also said all four candidates should appear at joint forums, since the state's open primary system allows voters to choose which primary to participate in regardless of party affiliation.
Lingle will not debate Carroll. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, Lingle's campaign manager, said the former governor has laid out her policy positions and looks forward to debating the Democratic nominee before the November general election.