Hawaii's U.S. Senate candidates traded barbs Wednesday over comments by Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle that her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, has refused to debate her on Maui or any other Neighbor Islands.
Hirono is "depriving Valley Isle voters of a chance to evaluate the U.S. Senate candidates side-by-side on the issues important to their communities," a Lingle campaign news release stated Wednesday.
"Hirono's disrespect for the people of Maui is a sign of arrogance," stated Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee.
However, Hirono's campaign noted that the two will participate in statewide televised debates next month. The Democrat's campaign has said previously that Hirono would not shy away from a fair playing field.
"Between now and the election, Mazie Hirono and Linda Lingle will debate four times on statewide television, providing Hawaii voters with ample opportunity to see the clear differences between these two candidates for U.S. Senate," said Hirono campaign press secretary Marvin Buenconsejo.
"Today's statements from the Lingle camp aren't surprising: Linda Lingle would rather have a false debate about debates than a real debate about her support for Mitt Romney and the national Republican agenda," he said in an email.
Lingle, who is a former Maui County mayor and Maui County Council member, said Hirono has never lived on the Neighbor Islands, so she is out of touch with her constituents.
"Mazie doesn't understand how hurtful this is to people on the Neighbor Islands," Lingle said.
Lee accused Hirono of not being willing to defend her ideas or her voting record - or what he said was a lack of one. He also noted that Hirono was a no-show for the recent Maui Chamber of Commerce debate, which became a forum for Lingle, since only she appeared.
Hirono's campaign representatives said the congresswoman didn't go to the Maui chamber's event because they knew she wouldn't get the business group's endorsement, since some board members had previously contributed to Lingle political campaigns.
Lingle's campaign said Hirono also refused to attend Valley Isle debates planned by the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce and at least one more sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board, Hawaii Public Radio on Maui and the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
The four Lingle-Hirono debates are scheduled for:
* Oct. 8 on KHON, with AARP.
* Oct. 16 on KITV, with Civil Beat.
* Oct. 18 on PBS.
* Oct. 22 on Hawaii News Now.
The times were not immediately available Wednesday.
Hirono did participate in a debate hosted last week by the Honolulu Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.