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Lingle, Hirono trade barbs in first debate of their Senate race

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    U.S. Rep Mazie Hirono, left, and former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle pose for photos at a U.S. Senate candidate forum at the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. Hirono, a Democrat, and Lingle, a Republican, engaged in their first of five debates as they compete to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. (AP Photo/Oskar Garcia)

Former Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono offered competing visions in the first debate of their U.S. Senate campaign, with Lingle outlining a bipartisan approach to national problems and Hirono declaring that Hawaii needs a Democratic senator who shares their values.

Lingle, a Republican, portrayed Hirono as ineffective in Congress and suggested she did not have the command of key federal tax and spending issues. Hirono said that if Lingle and Republicans take control of the Senate, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, would lose his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare would be threatened.

Lingle embraced the idea of giving seniors in Medicare a premium-support payment they could use to purchase private insurance as an option. Hirono said Lingle was following national Republican talking points on Medicare and budget ideas offered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP’s vice presidential nominee.

Lingle cracked that Hawaii voters could be surprised in November not to find Ryan as Hirono’s opponent for Senate, since he appeared to be the congresswoman’s focus. The former governor said Hirono should focus on Hawaii.

The forum, hosted by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce at the Japanese Cultural Center, was the first of five debates before the November election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.

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