In Blue Hawaii, Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle is seen as one of the state's most popular politicians. But even she has only a long shot at winning an open Senate seat.
Polls show Democratic congresswoman Mazie Hirono in the lead, some by as many as 17 points. As recently as June, Hirono had only a 5 percentage point lead.
|Mazie Hirono (AP Photo)
"It looks as if the Democratic lean of the state is taking over," RealClearPolitics reported last week. "This is quickly losing even long-shot status for Republicans."
But Lingle, 59, has overcome barriers before. She was Hawaii’s first female governor, its first Jewish governor, and the Aloha State’s first Republican governor since William F. Quinn left office in 1962. Most observers believe she is the only Republican who would have any chance of an upset in the state.
Hirono, 64, has also carved out some firsts of her own. Born in Japan, she came to the United States when she was 8 years old. She was the second Asian immigrant to be elected lieutenant governor of a U.S. state.
Hirono has argued that as a Democrat, she is more in sync with Aloha State voters. If elected, she would likely align with Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama, if he is returned to the White House for another four years.
|Linda Lingle (AP Photo)
The two women, who are vying to replace Democrat, Sen. Daniel Akaka who has represented the state since 1990, held little back during a heated debate on Monday with Lingle calling Hirono, a three-term member of Congress ineffective in Washington.
"Sending my opponent to the United States Senate is just too risky," Lingle said. "She has no history of leadership. She hasn't gotten anything done, and she doesn't play well with others."
In return Hirono goaded Lingle on a comment she made a decade ago that George W. Bush was America's greatest president. Lingle said she misspoke, but thought that Bush had done a good job in bringing the country together after 9/11.
Lingle has said she would be a better choice since Hawaii would then have a balanced delegation, with one Republican and one Democrat in veteran Sen. Daniel Inouye, the longest-serving member of the Chamber.
Lingle has an edge in fundraising. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan tracking group, she has raised $5.2 million, compared to $3.4 million for Hirono.
Early voting in Hawaii began on Tuesday.
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