WAILUKU - Former governor and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda Lingle on Wednesday evening had the Historic Iao Theater stage to herself when her opponent, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, opted out of a debate saying it wasn't fair.
Lingle, a former Maui County mayor, used the hour to seek the Maui Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorsement. More than 50 people attended the event.
Lingle said a U.S. Senate seat is open "once in a generation."
Former Gov. Linda Lingle appears alone Wednesday night at the Historic Iao Theater in what was supposed to be a forum with Democratic opponent Mazie Hirono before the Maui Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee. Hirono declined to appear; her campaign said it was doubtful that she would get fair treatment from panel members who’ve already supported the Republican candidate.
The Maui News / CHRIS HAMILTON photo
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka is retiring and vacating the Hawaii seat.
On Wednesday, Hirono campaign Manager Betsy Lin said the Democratic candidate chose to sit out of the event because chamber board members have "financially supported Lingle's campaigns dating back to 1998."
"There are serious questions on whether Mazie would get a fair shake," Lin said.
Chamber President Pamela Tumpap said she repeatedly reached out to Hirono's people and that the endorsement is available to candidates that appear before the Political Action Committee.
Lingle took advantage of the forum to discuss her priorities and answer questions. She said she would fight to create jobs, increase tourism, chew up the deficit and simplify taxes, among other causes.
Lingle stressed her proven ability to cross the aisle.
"My opponent wants us to think this race is about President Obama and her difficult childhood," Lingle said. "It isn't. It's about us."
Hirono's campaign also critiqued Lingle's "abysmal record" as governor and "extreme right-wing agenda."
Lingle and Hirono have 20 debates, including a few on Maui, scheduled before the Nov. 6 general election.
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.