Mazie Hirono and Ed Case have a lot in common.

They are only five years apart, and both are attorneys and former members of the state House of Representatives.

Hirono holds the same seat that Case held in the U.S. House of Representatives, and for about the same amount of time, too. Both have run for governor — against each other, in fact.

And, as Democrats, they share many similar positions on issues such as jobs and the economy, energy and sustainability, women’s rights, entitlement programs and tourism.

But Case and Hirono are two very different people with different backgrounds, personal and professional, and starkly different personalities.

It is no surprise, then, that they have taken different approaches to seeking the U.S. Senate, a contest that will be decided in just two months and will likely pit one of these politicians against Republican Linda Lingle.

Because there will be no statewide debates broadcast on commercial television between Case and Hirono, and because only a handful of TV ads have appeared so far, most voters may not be fully aware of the campaigns.

So Civil Beat took a close look at the campaign styles of Hirono and Case: on the trail, in their platform, online and in their own words.

Lone Ranger vs. Mazie’s Ohana

Case is more independent, Hirono more collaborative. Case depends on the help of a few, Hirono the help of many. Case is direct and reachable, Hirono has key staff members that handle communication.

Those characteristics were evident over the past few weeks of the campaign.

Case held a news conference May 22 to protest speaking fees at the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s convention, lambast Hirono’s agenda and announce new poll results that Case said show the race to be a dead heat.

Hirono left it to her spokeswoman and deputy campaign manager, Carolyn Tanaka, to respond with a three-paragraph rebuttal, and to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to flatly dismiss the poll.

That pattern has been a familiar one.

It has the effect of both getting Case in the news yet sometimes making him appear desperate. For Hirono, it reinforces the image that she is the leading candidate who doesn’t have time to deal with a primary opponent. Yet it also suggests she is reluctant to engage Case directly.

At the convention over Memorial Day weekend, when Case spoke to party delegates, he was alone at the dais, with only his wife, Audrey, standing nearby. During the press conference mentioned above, Audrey, Ed Hasegawa and Lloyd Nekoba quietly labeled campaign mailers. Case appears to have only one paid campaign staff member, coordinator Sarah Kaopuiki.

Hirono was escorted to the convention stage at the Sheraton Waikiki by a horde of enthusiastic supporters, carrying a sea of white and blue signs and wearing campaign T-shirts. The entourage included campaign manager Betsy Lin, a veteran of local and mainland campaigns, and chair Tim Johns, a respected and well-connected Hawaii executive. Hirono’s team, some of whom are highly paid, also has on board experienced political hands like Elisa Yadao and Andy Winer. The Mazie’s Ohana link on her website — a list of early contributors — numbers in the hundreds, most of them well-known local folks.

Two other images: At the Hawaii Hotel & Lodging Association candidate forum on May 29, Hirono’s team had sign-wavers dominating the sidewalk outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village, where the forum was held. Tanaka greeted arrivals at an escalator and directed them to the room where the candidates were speaking.

Case was on his own at the tourism forum except for Audrey. There were no sign-wavers outside.

The takeaway: While he has many supporters, especially grassroots, Case seems a Lone Ranger, an image that complements his independent streak but contrasts with the more group-oriented, inclusive style of Hirono. Hirono, on the other hand, while demonstrating broad support, sometimes does not stand out in her own campaign.

One other observation: Case answers his own emails and takes his own calls. No one speaks for him. Hirono’s top staff prefer to talk on background rather than on the record. Case has no problem with being on the record with journalists.

When Hirono does speak to reporters, it can seem as if aides have prepped her beforehand. They hover close to watch her delivery.

9,500 Words vs. 4,500 Words

Hirono has been criticized by some for not providing enough information about her policy agenda for the U.S. Senate, but her website does offer specifics.

In 4,500 words, she offers six reasons for her campaign: clean energy, education, jobs and the economy, Social Security and Medicare, sustainability and veterans.

Hirono is often personal in these agendas, including multiple references to her mother, Laura. One example:

Like nearly 200,000 other senior citizens in Hawaii, Medicare covers my mother’s health care needs. Like the more than 150,000 retirees throughout our state, Social Security is at the heart of my mother’s retirement security.

Hirono has recently been criticized for using her mother too much in her campaign, but the approach likely will help her; it underscores her commitment to critical issues and appeals to a local population that venerates its kupuna.

That point is further illustrated when she states, “On Social Security and Medicare, we need a senator who follows in the tradition of Senators Inouye and Akaka.”

The agenda also contains tidbits that many may not know about the candidate, like this one:

My very first job was a lunchtime cashier at my elementary school. My “pay” was a hot school lunch. Later, my brother helped me fix up an old bike we painted blue so I could have a paper route.

Hirono frequently links her agenda to issues she has worked on in Congress. Two examples:

When I cast my vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, it was for my mother and all the women like her who for so long earned less than their male colleagues for the same job.

I’ve championed and helped secure funding to rehabilitate the Lower Hamakua Ditch and build the Up-Country Maui irrigation system. When this program was targeted for elimination this year, I was able to rally support for it on both sides of the aisle and save it.

Case has been criticized for sometimes providing too much information about his positions, and there is some truth to that. The issues on his website feature principles and specifics, invariably in sets of 10.

In some 9,500 words — more than twice Hirono’s output — Case outlines 10 agendas: Growing Our Economy, Strengthening Tourism, Enhancing Hawaii’s Defense Community, Fixing Washington, Assuring Our Energy Needs, Balancing Our Budget, Advancing UH and Hawaii Higher Education, Protecting Our Earth, Advancing Women’s Rights and Preserving Hawaii.

I’m not sure who will read all Case has to say — I did — but much of it is timely and exact.

Under Fixing Washington, for example, Case says he would work to reverse the Citizens United case that has led to a flooding of super PAC money into federal races. Balancing Our Budget calls for eliminating the Bush tax credits. Halting global warming will require national legislation and international agreements to reduce carbon emissions.

Case may not explain how he will achieve all this, exactly, but he has obviously given it a lot of thought.

His Preserving Hawaii agenda, meanwhile, is a list of Native Hawaiian issues — like housing, education and health — and objectives, something that appears lacking on Hirono’s website. Case supports self-determination and a Native Hawaiian governing entity (he does not mention the Akaka bill) and wants to build on existing programs that support Hawaiians.

And, Case has an Ed’s Beliefs section on his website, “my own core values and beliefs, which I’ve carried with me throughout my life.”

They’re predictable platitudes and do little to advance our understanding of Case. Two examples:

Ours is the greatest country. Not just our founding principles, but our history and our continued promise.

Lucky-you-live-Hawaii is not just a saying; it’s a way of life, admired and envied everywhere.

Still, it’s clear that Case feels that sharing his beliefs is part of who he is.

One other note: Case mentions his mother several times on his website, including in his education agenda — “Suzanne Case (B.A. ’59, M.L.S. ’69)”.

Waipahu Pancit v. Hemic the Cat

Hirono was slow to post a fleshed-out campaign website, but she has one now.

The homepage is a collage of photos, most of of them Hirono through the years, including on her wedding day. There are pictures of lots of supporters, too.

Among the site’s niftiest features is a timeline on the homepage. Click on a year — 1980, for example — and there’s a black and white photo of Hirono when she was first elected to the state House of Representatives.

The website stresses a main campaign theme — that Hirono has come from “humble beginnings, and has overcome difficult obstacles.”

Hirono’s bio notes that she would be the first Asian-American woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate, which helps explain the legion of Asian-American women supporting her candidacy.

The bio is heavy on family — especially Hirono’s mother — but also offers other personal trivia. Excerpt:

She’s a proud stepmother to Malia Oshima Paul and auntie to Malia’s and her husband Scott’s two children, Kainoa, a bookworm, and Mehana, a cartwheel expert. A fan of the arts, Mazie was able to get back to working with ceramics a few years ago. She’s also an avid e-reader and tries to keep up with her friends by playing Internet Scrabble.

Fun factoid: Hirono’s cat is named Hemic, which I presume comes from HEMIC, which stands for Hawaii Employers Mutual Insurance Company, a workers’ compensation group that Hirono helped create while in the state House.

The lower half of the homepage is filled with a campaign feed of Hirono’s Facebook (2,862 “likes”) and Twitter (926 followers) accounts as well as a news section which highlights items about Hirono.

About that news section: There is an item titled Hirono Issues Remarks on Equal Pay Day, which comes from an article on MauiNow.Com.

In fact, the the MauiNow.Com piece is a near word-for-word rewrite of a press release that originated from Hirono’s U.S. House office. In this way, Hirono is able to dovetail her campaign with her official duties without violating any rules.

Case’s homepage is dominated by a single photo of him and the words “Case Senate. Strong Effective Leadership.” When the main photo is scrolled two of the three other pictures are of Case and his wife.

The lower half of the Case homepage is a News & Update section that also includes recent tweets from his account (1,840 followers). His Facebook page has 992 “likes.”

Regarding biography, Case’s account begins in 1896 — yes, 116 years ago — when his great-grandparents moved to Honolulu from Kansas. It includes descriptions of Case’s roots on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, where he was born.

The bio continues in sections titled “Formative Years,” “Home: 1981 to Present,” “Putting It All Together” and “Meet Ed and Audrey.”

But there’s more — separate links for Case’s Experience, In Congress and Audrey Case.

The section on Congress is very useful for those wanting to know more about Case’s time in D.C. Many voters may not recall, for example, that he visited troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Be sure to check out the 17-page PDF 2002-2007 congressional record. It’s quite thorough, listing not only bills passed but how many times he voted and how many speeches he gave on the House floor.

(To give equal time: Hirono’s U.S. House website chronicles her time in office far more extensively than her campaign site.)

Case’s bio section even has a link called Home Cooking With Audrey, which includes a video demonstration for whipping up Waipahu Pancit.

“Over the years we’ve all tried to incorporate healthier items, but in the end there’s nothing like a great potluck to relax the team after a hard week of practice and an intense game,” says Audrey Case.

One other point: Some suspect Case features his wife Audrey so prominently in his campaign because he wants to appeal to Japanese-American voters. (Audrey’s maiden name is Nakamura.)

I don’t share that view.

But one point that no one, to my knowledge, has made publicly about this race: If Case is elected to the Senate, he will be the first white to serve from Hawaii since Oren Long retired in 1963. The same applies to Lingle.

Case v. Tanaka

Civil Beat asked Case and Hirono to share their thoughts on their respective campaign styles — how they position their platform, approach public appearances and use social media. I also offered the opportunity to comment on their opponent’s style.

Befitting the candidates, it wasn’t Hirono who responded but her spokeswoman, Carolyn Tanaka, with a 264-word statement. Case, meanwhile, sent 757 words.

We’ll let the candidates have the last word:

Here’s what Tanaka said:

Mazie is campaigning for U.S. Senate the way she leads as a public servant. Mazie believes listening to the people of Hawaii is as important as talking with them, an approach that’s led to overwhelming support from people signing up to help, volunteering to staff headquarters, host coffee hours and financially contributing to our campaign. Mazie turns the personal stories and local challenges she hears into bipartisan policy solutions, an approach that shaped her detailed plan for a more self-reliant and sustainable Hawaii when it comes to producing our own energy and food. And Mazie uses social media tools to rally and galvanize the people of Hawaii when Washington’s misguided policies threaten Hawaii, like her effort to stop the Republicans from de-funding Planned Parenthood and protect basic health care services for thousands of Hawaii’s women and families. These are the hallmarks of a campaign that blends local traditions with modern techniques, the kind of campaign built to win in November.



Others can decide if these are differences with her Democratic opponent, but Mazie’s campaign style sets her apart in at least two ways. First, Mazie believes the people of Hawaii need a Senator who attacks our challenges, like job creation and creating a more self-reliant Hawaii — not someone who just attacks. And, second, Mazie believes this campaign must be about the people of Hawaii and their futures, rather than merely about the candidates and their personal ambitions. Those principles are reflected in the way Mazie has campaigned from Day One, and in the way she’s always served the people of Hawaii.

And here’s what Case said:

Congress’ record low approval ratings are a direct result of the detached, spin-doctored, micromanaged, insider-trading approach of Washington politicians today. It is a self-inflicted wound that’s opened a yawning divide between government and the people when we most need to stand together. It angers and embarrasses me, but can be reversed through a direct and personal reconnection between voters and their U. S. Senators and Representatives.

I’ve followed an approach of direct and personal interaction and accountability over a quarter century as both a candidate and elected official. This is not a matter of strategy or style or specific campaign but of belief.

I believe that government works best when voters feel government is listening to us and is us. I believe that is best achieved through the personal involvement of the candidate and elected official. I also believe that that is the candidate’s and elected official’s obligation, and that it makes you a far better elected official.

As a candidate for state and federal office, I’ve been personally accessible through canvassing, signwaving, community forums and events, and whatever other means are available to talk story with voters directly. In this campaign, for example, we kicked off last year with 23 Talk Story with Ed events throughout the state, and are halfway through similar Pau Hana with Ed statewide events. This weekend I canvassed with my supporters in Pearl City and walked around the first Obon of the season in Waipahu; at these and other activities voters had the opportunity to check me out personally and I had great conversations that are now a part of me.

I followed the same approach as an elected state and federal official. As a state legislator I reported back to my community though newsletters and events. As U. S. Congressman my 172 Talk Stories throughout my district, each one unmoderated and just me with voters, gave folks direct access and kept me involved with my community. I also had an open-office policy on meeting with folks, and a policy that correspondence from Hawaii folks got answered.

My approach extended and extends to public communications. I write my own speeches, answer my own questionnaires, deal with the media myself, and, yes, the agenda items are mine. I’ve been fortunate to have had great staffs and campaign volunteers who help me greatly with all of the above, but ultimately I believe that I’m the candidate, I’m the elected official, and what folks see should be and is who I am.

Social media is just another way of doing all of the above, and I’ve been using it since my state legislative days (when I put out a weekly e-newsletter), early statewide campaigns (when in ’02 we were I believe the first Hawaii campaign to post web video agendas), early Congressional service (where around ’04 we were, I was told, the first House office to do an e-Talk Story), and now with Twitter (yes, that’s me tweeting). This is simply about direct and personal communication though the primary means of an increasing number of voters, and it is very direct and personal.

Among many policy and style differences between Mazie and me, this is one of the most glaring. Of course, her refusal to debate on statewide commercial TV or any other means reaching more than a handful of voters is an outright rejection of personal accessibility and accountability, as is her refusal to post her record and what anyone would regard as a real agenda on her website. As Congresswoman, she has not maintained a direct interaction throughout her far-flung district (her “coffee talks” were very few, picking up only after she decided to run for the Senate, and only in the main population centers), and has not made responding to constituent communications and concerns a priority.

She lives and campaigns in a protective bubble, surrounded by handlers, her speeches and appearances carefully scripted, her contacts with voters carefully micromanaged. This will only worsen as her campaign directors carefully conceal her behind a barrage of thirty-second infomercials intended to distract voters from the real questions of just who she is, what she’s done and what can and will she do.

How one campaigns and has done the job reflects how one will do the job. There is a stark choice for voters between Mazie and me on direct and personal interaction and accountability, which says everything about who will be able to help fix DC and reverse the dangerous slide in public confidence in government.

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