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Senate Starting Lineup for 2012

Candidates seeking to fill U.S. Senate seat share their political platforms with Maui County voters. “… together, we’ll keep fighting for Hawai‘i in the U.S. Senate.”

November 3, 2011
Sarah Ruppenthal , The Maui Weekly

If politics is your favorite sport, then it's shaping up to be an exciting season, as the race to represent the State of Hawai'i in the United States Senate heats up.

It should come as no surprise, though: when U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka announced he would not seek reelection earlier this year, many speculated that some familiar faces would soon emerge at the starting line.

And they did.

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Senate candidate and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono visited Maui County last month to “talk story” with island constituents. “We’ve fought some tough fights together in Congress. And, together, we’ll keep fighting for Hawai‘i in the U.S. Senate.” Former Gov. Linda Lingle addressed the Maui Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon on Monday, Oct. 17, at Cafe O’Lei at The Dunes at Maui Lani. The former governor said her decision to enter the race stemmed from a desire “to make a difference in Washington” and “restore con?dence in the economy.”

To date, a formidable roster of candidates, including U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, former Gov. Linda Lingle, former State Sen. John Carroll and former Rep. Ed Case, have tossed their hats into the proverbial ring. It is expected that Rep. Hirono and former Rep. Case, will face off for the Democratic nomination to succeed Sen. Akaka, while Republican candidates Carroll and Lingle will likely seek to fill Sen. Akaka's shoes in the Primary Election next fall.

Some political analysts suspect that the lineup will eventually become more crowded, as it's possible that a new slate of candidates, including Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (representing Hawai'i's 1st Congressional District), will enter the race for 2012.

That being said, it should come as no surprise that the race for the state's open Senate seat is making headlines-and not just in Hawai'i.

According to a recent Public Policy Polling ( report, "With former Gov. Linda Lingle having jumped into the race, the Democrats' bid to retain Daniel Akaka's seat could be very competitive. Akaka has held the seat for over 21 years, and another Democrat for 13 years before that."

However, the report says, "While Case performs better against the unknown Carroll, Hirono does a little better versus their strongest and most likely opponent, Lingle. Hirono bests Lingle by six points, 48-42, but Case actually trails by two, 43-45. Lingle performs roughly equally well with Republicans and independents against either Democrat, leading by 69 or 71 points with her own party and by 26 with independents. But her share of the Democratic vote is a hefty enough 17 percent against Hirono, but 24 percent versus Case."

Without question, Hawai'i voters will face some tough decisions as they head to the polls for the 2012 Primary and General Elections. But until then, these Senate hopefuls aren't wasting any time, and two contenders, Lingle and Rep. Hirono, recently visited the Valley Isle last month, sharing their political platforms with island voters. Here is a brief political snapshot of both candidates:

Linda Lingle

On Monday, Oct. 17, former Linda Lingle spoke to members of the Maui Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon held at Cafe O'Lei at The Dunes at Maui Lani.

If she wins the election next year, Lingle would be the second Republican-not to mention, the first female Republican-to serve Hawai'i in the U.S. Senate after Sen. Hiram Fong, who was elected to represent the state in 1959. In her address to the Maui Chamber of Commerce, the former governor said her decision to enter the race stemmed from a desire "to make a difference in Washington" and "restore confidence in the economy."

If elected, her "to do" list includes: holding federal agencies accountable for creating-and cutting-jobs ("we need to create a 'jobs impact statement,' similar to an 'environmental impact statement,'" she said), easing the visa process for visitors to the U.S., developing a lawsuit reform initiative and emphasizing the critical role of the tourist industry, which she said accounts for 10 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

"If I'm elected, I want to become America's point person on tourism," said Lingle. "No one does this now, and I understand this industry."

And can Lingle compete in such a heavily Democratic state?

"I think I'm the underdog in this race," she said, "but I also think I have a good chance."

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono

Nearly a week after Lingle's visit to the Valley Isle, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono traveled to Upcountry Maui for a "coffee talk" session on Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Ali'i Lavender Farm, followed by a trip to the Senior Fair at the War Memorial Gymnasium and a "talk story" session at Da Kitchen Restaurant in Kahului.

Surrounded by dozens of her constituents, the congresswoman addressed the topics of employment, job creation, sustainability and the protection of social services.

"I'm going to work really hard," she assured residents. "I stand by the middle class and the working people of this state-and this country."

Rep. Hirono is no stranger to politics. She served two four-year terms as Hawai'i's 9th lieutenant governor, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1980, and in 2006, became the first female Asian immigrant to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

She is also no stranger to the Neighbor Islands, as her congressional district covers all seven Neighbor Islands, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and rural O'ahu. Of the planks comprising her political platform-which includes job creation, transportation, environmental issues and renewable energy-education is a legislative priority for Rep. Hirono. She now serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Education. In May, Rep. Hirono assured Hawai'i voters, "We've fought some tough fights together in Congress and, together, we'll keep fighting for Hawai'i in the U.S. Senate."

In the next issue of the Maui Weekly, we will examine the campaign platforms of U.S. Senate candidates Ed Case and John Carroll.



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