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Hawaii: Linda Lingle Invokes Elizabeth Edwards During Senate Debate

Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (above) accused Rep. Mazie Hirono of supporting John Edwards for president in 2008. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (above) accused Rep. Mazie Hirono of supporting John Edwards for president in 2008. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In their first televised debate Monday night, Hawaii Senate candidates former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) and Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) attacked each other for supporting failed presidential candidates of the past.

Hirono asked Lingle if she regretted statements she made while stumping for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the 2008 general election against President Barack Obama, a native son of Hawaii. Lingle responded by suggesting that Hirono and Democratic Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye supported others in the 2008 primary process.

“Congresswoman Hirono, as you know, you didn’t support President Obama, you supported John Edwards. Sen. Inouye didn’t support President Obama, he supported Hillary Clinton.”

Inouye did back Clinton in the contested primary, but the Hirono campaign was quick to point out that Lingle erred on the Edwards matter. Hirono did endorse Edwards in 2004, but not in 2008. In 2008, Hirono waited until late in the campaign to endorse Obama. Hirono was not able to correct Lingle’s mistake during the debate, but her campaign subsequently called the former governor out on the error.

“I think it was clear that you didn’t think he was the best candidate to be president because you supported John Edwards, and I’ve often wondered because you talk so much about women’s issues — and how horribly he treated his late wife — did you ever regret supporting John Edwards for president?” Lingle asked during the debate.

Elizabeth Edwards, the longtime wife of the former North Carolina Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, died in 2010 after a lengthy battle with cancer. John Edwards famously fathered a child with a campaign videographer while his wife was undergoing treatment, but that information did not come to light until after he dropped out of the race in 2008.

Lingle’s charge marked a bizarre moment in an otherwise substantive debate. Despite name recognition throughout the islands, Lingle has trailed by double-digits in multiple polls.

In a contrast to many Senate contests on the mainland, both the Democrat and Republican said they would oppose confirmation of Supreme Court nominees who would support overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion-rights case.

Lingle sought to cast Hirono as unable to work effectively with Republicans, asking if she had worked across the aisle to pass any legislation. Hirono began her response talking instead about the health care law that passed with only Democratic votes.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments that I’ve worked with President Obama to achieve for the people not just of Hawaii but across the country. Obamacare is one of them,” Hirono said. “I’m proud of the fact that I fought hard to make sure that Hawaii pre-paid health care law remained intact in the House version of that bill.”

Much of the debate focused on Medicare and Social Security, which is no surprise because it was sponsored by the AARP along with KHON. The Lingle campaign criticized Hirono for lacking details on a number of subjects, while the Hirono campaign portrayed Lingle’s responses to several questions as out-of-touch with Hawaii.

Roll Call rates the open-seat race to replace retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) Likely Democratic.

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