The increasingly negative campaign for Hawaii’s U.S. Senate seat rose to a new level Monday, with Democrat Mazie Hirono accusing Republican Linda Lingle of deception and a possible coverup in producing its latest television spot.

The news about Lingle’s advertisement was reported nationally before many people in Hawaii were awake.

Matt Canter of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee included in his “Quick Takes” email blast that Lingle’s campaign released a new ad over the weekend called “Democrats for Lingle” — “a necessity in state Obama will win by 20+ points,” he explained.

Canter continued: “The problem is that 7 out of the 8 people featured have either run for office as Republicans, are currently employed by Lingle or served in her administration.”

The DSCC, of course, is backing Hirono’s candidacy in order to help Democrats maintain their control of the Senate.

But the story was quickly picked up by the media. About an hour later, around 7:30 a.m. HST, Talking Points Memo ran a story on the ad.

“The ad marks at least the second time this cycle a Republican has cast another Republican to play a Democrat in order to boost their bipartisan bona fides,” said TPM, which identified several of the people in Lingle’s ad. “The RNC released an ad earlier this month in which an RNC staffer pretended to be a disillusioned Obama supporter.”

Reached for comment, Lingle campaign spokesperson Corrie Heck said in a 9:26 a.m. email, “While the spot was labeled ‘Democrats’ during the transfer to the stations, no where in the spot do we state that all individuals featured are Democrats.”

The actual title of the ad, according to the Lingle campaign, is “People Across the State Agree.” That’s the name currently in the YouTube clip and Lingle’s own campaign website. You can view it at the end of this article.

The problem, said Hirono campaign spokesperson Kinsey Kiriakos, was that the ad in question was originally titled “Democrats for Lingle.” He produced what he described as before-and-after screen shots of the ad in question — one of which is reproduced at right — with that title.

Kiriakos also noted that Lingle’s Twitter account promoted the ad, including one that reads “Democrats for Lingle http://bit.ly/RRrllM #HISen See how ppl across state value @Linda_Lingle putting #People1st.” The link directs readers to the ad on the Lingle campaign website.

By midday, Hirono sent out a press release identifying the names of the seven out of eight Republicans mentioned earlier by the DSCC and TPM.

Asked about the criticism of the ad, Lingle’s campaign manager, Bob Lee, suggested that the Hirono campaign had overreacted.

He told Civil Beat early Monday afternoon that the ad was titled “Voices Across the State Including Democrats” when it was posted to YouTube over the weekend but was changed to “Democrats for Lingle” when it was sent to Hawaii’s network stations for broadcast this week.

“We needed to shorten the title,” said Lee, who stressed that the ad was not formally titled “Democrats for Lingle.”

What about the screen shot from the Hirono campaign?

Lee laughed.

“We are not going to chase that one screen shot,” he said.

Whether the ad kerfuffle becomes a turning point in the race or just another blip along the campaign trail remains to be seen.

But the story continued to have legs nationally on Monday, including by ABC News, The Washington Post and Huffington Post, enforcing the Hirono view that Lingle had indeed mislead voters. It also underscores how fast a political issue can go viral.

“It is pretty clear when you look at the YouTube page and the attachments that they were trying to cover up their tracks,” said Kiriakos, who said it was the second time in just over a month that the Lingle campaign “messed up an ad and then tried to blame it on ‘satellite transfer’ problems.”

Fifty Days Left

The Hirono and Lingle campaigns have been firing near-daily blasts at one another and blanketing the airwaves with millions of dollars in advertising.

There has been no recent polling on the race, but national political analysts have suggested that Hirono has a decided edge largely because Hawaii is the birth state of President Barack Obama. Outside groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are currently spending money in other states where Senate battles are tight.

If polls show the race close, however, national attention (and money) could find its way back into the Senate election because control of the U.S. Senate could be in play.

Central to the Hawaii campaign is Hirono’s effort to paint Lingle as a partisan politician and Lingle’s pitch that she is a bipartisan leader. Hence the brouhaha over Lingle’s latest ad.

In its press release, the Hirono campaign identified the seven of eight people in the ad as Republicans or with GOP ties:

Elaine Slavinsky: ran as a Republican for Hawaii’s State Senate;

Jan Shishido: former Maui Republican Party chair, ran as a Republican for Hawaii’s State House and served on Governor Lingle’s Maui Advisory Council;

Barbara Leilani Purdy: currently works for Lingle’s U.S. Senate campaign, managing the Maui headquarters;

Dave Matsuura: former Democratic state senator who endorsed Lingle’s lieutenant governor, Republican Duke Aiona, for governor in 2010;

Gail Takeuchi: sat on Lingle’s Maui Advisory Council;

Takashi Kitaoka: former judge “and self-described Republican” who was appointed to the judicial bench by a Republican governor;
Francis Lum: served as Lingle’s chief of protocol.


After this article was published, Heck told Civil Beat that the Hirono camp “has been spreading falsehoods” about two of the people listed above.

Regarding Purdy, Heck said that Purdy’s mother, Barbara Baisa, “is a dedicated supporter of the Maui campaign. Her daughter, however, is NOT connected to the campaign besides her support of Linda Lingle.”

Regarding Lum, Heck reiterated (as was already noted in this article — see the next paragraph) that Lum served as chief of protocol for five of Hawaii’s governor, “four of which are Democrats. He is a lifelong Democrat who continued service for a Republican administration.”

Asked about the contention that the ad might be misleading, Heck said via email, “What the DSCC ignores is the three very prominent Democrat leaders featured in the spot: a former Democrat state Senator, the former State protocol officer who worked for 5 of Hawaii’s Governors (4 of whom are Democrats), and a self-identified Democrat supporter who plans to vote for President Obama. …”

Heck continued: “The spot is about people across the state — from diverse backgrounds, political affiliations and perspectives — that agree Linda Lingle is the clear choice for U.S. Senate. As your research will point out, there are several current and retired public school teachers included in the spot, as well as a native Hawaiian community leader, in addition to the Democrat supporters. These individuals are representative of the broad spectrum of supporters who are backing Linda Lingle for U.S. Senate.”

Lee said a similar ad including other Democrats supporting Lingle has already been produced and plans to air soon.

“In fact, one of them said was he was a Democrat that voted for Ed Case and is now voting for Linda Lingle,” he said.

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