Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, and Former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, faced off at the AARP’s political forum on Monday night.
During the one-hour event broadcast live on KHON TV 2, Hirono read right out of the national Democratic playbook. She focused her efforts on tying Lingle to former President George Bush, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and on numerous occasions, she mentioned the Iraq War, weapons of mass destruction and tax breaks for the wealthy.
Hirono also referred to the former Governor by her first name, Linda, or “my Republican opponent,” even though Lingle acknowledged Hirono as “Congressman Hirono.”
Hirono maintained if Lingle was elected, she could shift the power in the U.S. Senate to a Republican majority and ultimately be responsible for Hawaii’s Senior Senator Daniel Inouye being removed as Senate Appropriations Chair.
Lingle countered she didn’t know Inouye needed protection, and added: “Her (Hirono’s) backup plan seems to be to convince voters that they should support her so she can protect Senator Inouye. It’s really sad that she’s not able to stand on her own.”
In Blue Hawaii, Lingle refers to herself as an “independent” or “moderate” Republican and “bipartisan.” During her responses, Lingle focused less partisan politics and more on what she saw as her own accomplishments, though she did launch several zingers at Hirono.
“Can you point to any bills in Congress where worked in a bipartisan fashion?” Lingle asked Hirono.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments that I’ve worked President Obama to achieve for the people not just of Hawaii but across the country. Obamacare is one of them. I’m proud of the fact that I fought hard to make sure that Hawaii pre-paid healthcare law remained in tact in the House version of that bill,” Hirono said.
Lingle retorted: “I didn’t hear anything specific about a bill that you got passed that was your proposal.”
When Hirono attacked Lingle for supporting Senator John McCain over Barak Obama in the 2008 Presidential election, Lingle pointed out Hirono supported Sen. John Edwards in his bid for President. (Hirono backed Edwards officially in 2004).
Lingle asked: “I’ve often wondered, because you talk so much about women’s issues, how horribly he treated his late wife. Did you ever regret supporting John Edwards for president?”
Hirono asked Lingle about her claims during the 2008 presidential campaign that Obama was his economic agenda would devastate the nation’s economy and put America’s children’s safety at risk.
“Do you regret those comments?” Hirono asked.
That’s when Lingle brought up the controversy over Barack Obama’s birth certificate: “When all the debate was going on across the nation about where President Obama was born, it was me as governor who made public statements and issued news releases so that that kind of talk would stop.”
The liveliest part of the debates came when they challenged each other directly.
On the Iraq War, Hirono asked Lingle: “Since no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, do you regret supporting the War in Iraq?”
Lingle acknowledged, she, like the majority in Congress, supported the Iraq War, but used the opportunity to point to Hirono’s lack of support for the nation’s troops.
“I’ve heard Congresswoman Hirono say on many occasions how she supports our troops, but I have never seen her once at a command change ceremony, at a deployment ceremony or visiting families at funerals that I’ve attended,” Lingle said.
Because of the AARP sponsorship, many of the questions posed by political consultants Jerry Burris and Gerald Kato focused on senior issues.
On social security, Hirono said: “We should lift the cap on payments into the social security trust fund so people making over $110K will continue to pay into that trust fund.”
Lingle countered: “People live a lot longer and there are fewer workers for retirees. So we do have to lift the cap on the amount of wages that are subject to social security tax.”
On foreign policy, Lingle asked Hirono why she refused to support a free trade agreement with South Korea when the country is one of our allies, and she questioned Hirono’s claim that South Korea manipulates its currency.
Hirono, who is endorsed by essentially all of the major public and private unions, said the free trade agreement with South Korea would lead to American jobs being lost and she preferred instead to open America’s borders to South Korean tourists.
Both Lingle and Hirono are pro-choice candidates. They both said they support Sen. Inouye and his efforts to bring home earmarks for Hawaii.
The both oppose the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, known as Citizens United, which allows for more freedom in campaign donations but can also lead to more money going into political action committees with less transparency.
Lingle said four mainland groups are attacking her on Hirono’s behalf where as she has just one outside group supporting her, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In a follow up email, both campaigns pointed out errors made by their opponents in the forum.
There are three other statewide-televised debates between Lingle and Hirono including: October 16 on KITV News; October 18 on PBS Hawaii and October 22 on Hawaii News Now.