BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Congressman Ed Case, D-HI (2002-2007) has aggressively taken on Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, D-HI, in recent days during a series of media interviews, trying to bring her out from behind her “handlers” into the public spotlight.
Case has come out swinging. Earlier in the week, he held a press conference in which he compared Hirono to “bowl of warm jello” because of her inability to articulate a platform for her campaign. He’s already unveiled his top 10 plans and policies for everything from military, to the federal budget to Hawaiian affairs, he said, while Hirono has released one statement from her Congressional office on her plans to boost the agriculture and energy industries. (see the press conference here)
Case hopes they can both participate in a series of forums and townhall-style debates before the August 11 Primary election, when they will each strive to win the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the retirement of U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka. Case calls the election “the single most important election this year.”
So far, Hirono has turned down several offers for statewide televised debates, she has dismissed more than a half a dozen other opportunities from business and community organizations. She has agreed to meet just five times at private events that few people will be able to access, Case said.
Hirono calls her offer to meet five times with Case “unprecedented,” but Case dismisses that claim as ridiculous, noting all across the country, U.S. Senate candidates and presidential candidates are debating one another. He said on the Senate floor, Hawaii’s next U.S. Senator will have to debate and fight for Hawaii, and each candidate should prove they have what it takes well in advance of election day.
The issue is coming to a head now, because one of the invitations Hirono turned down was at her own party’s convention, scheduled this weekend at the Sheraton Waikiki. Initially, Hirono agreed to participate in a joint forum with the Oahu County Democrats on Thursday evening, but when the event was postponed by party officials on a technical matter, Hirono refused to meet Case as scheduled on Thursday in a different location. He sent her a letter telling her that he knew they were both free on Thursday evening, he would meet her “any time, any place.” Hawaii Pacific University offered to host the event. But she still said no.
Hirono instead asked for time at the convention, a request party leaders turned down. That left the top two Democratic candidates vying for the seat without any time to speak at the convention.
In a surprise move, Hirono then decided to buy 8 minutes of “rally time” at $500 a minute where she would make an uninterrupted speech before her party members without Case by her side.
Case was outraged at Hirono’s decision to buy time in order to skip the debate, and at a press conference earlier this week, he called her actions “sad” and “pathetic”. He refused on principle to buy his own “rally time” saying since they were vying for the most important seat this election, they should be entitled to speak at the convention without a charge.
Today, party officials agreed with Case, and will allow both Case and Hirono equal stage time. The pricey fee, meant as a party fundraiser, will be waived.
Hirono said after today’s announcement: “Democrats deserve to hear from their candidates at our convention, and I am extremely glad that will be happening this weekend. I am pleased that the Hawaii Democratic Party has reversed its ill conceived policy to charge candidates for the opportunity to address their fellow democrats.”
Case said: “Mazie refused a debate at our convention, and had no problem with paying for rally time when she was the only one speaking. So her concern now for our party members being able to hear from both of us at convention is hollow.”
The whole sequence of events was triggered by Hirono’s refusal to debate at her own party’s convention, Case said. Democratic Party officials asked again today if Case and Hirono would participate in a Saturday evening forum, which Case accepted and Hirono refused.
At the Hawaii Republican Convention two weeks ago, former Governor Linda Lingle, who also is a U.S. Senate candidate, noted this election is a once in a quarter century opportunity, because Hawaii on average elects its U.S. Senators once every 25 years.
Case also stressed the importance of this election, and of providing every opportunity to allow the voters to judge them side by side. A poll of likely Democratic voters sponsored and released by Case’s campaign this week, shows he is one point ahead of Hirono. Case believes the voters have a right to hear from both candidates, side by side, so they can make a fair comparison.
Today, Hirono issued a statement about Case’s appearance yesterday on Hawaii Reporter TV, picking out just one of his statements.
Case said: “I think really, uh, uh, with eighty days to go, as the poll just showed, people know generally who we are. We know that Mazie was born in Japan and then immigrated to this country at a young age and was brought up by a single mother. That’s something that she’s been very clear about right from the get-go. And people know, I hope people know, I was born and raised in Hilo, fourth generation of my family in Hawaii, and I have deep roots here, and worked in the private and public sectors. So I think people have a general sense of who we are. Now it’s time to discuss, what does that translate into? We’ve both served in the United States Congress, we both have comparable public service careers, I’ve had thirty years in the private sector which she hasn’t had any. But I think the bottom line is what have we done with our upbringings. What is our record in Congress. What do we think, today. And what is our agenda, going forward. I think those are fair questions. And I think what’s going to happen in all honesty is we’re going to get into the last eighty days and Mazie is just going to remain stuck in the past, keep on talking about you know, her background and never translating it to, you know, record, thoughts, agenda.” (see the entire show here)
Hirono’s responded today in a written statement: “In just the past four days, Ed Case has compared me to a ‘bowl of warm jello,’ called me ‘pathetic,’ and labeled me ‘sad.’ This pattern of behavior is profoundly disappointing but no one should worry—I can take those insults. I have faced far greater challenges in my life than personal attacks from an opponent in a political campaign. But last night, Ed Case crossed the line that we do not cross in Hawaii, denigrating my personal background and my family. I would ask, in his campaign of escalating insults, that Ed Case leave my mother out of it.”
That led Case to respond: “I have great respect for Mazie’s mother, who reminds me in many ways of my own. I’ve always said that this election must be about the issues facing our country: about Mazie’s and my record, beliefs, positions, abilities and agendas. The fact is that Mazie has not focused on any of that and has not released any meaningful agenda. It’s time for her to do so to allow voters to compare the candidates and decide who can get the job done, especially as she has avoided any real debates or other opportunities for voters to size us up side-by-side.”