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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye on Thursday asked Republican Senate candidate Linda Lingle to pull down a web video touting a relationship between the two, and said the video has given him the incentive to actively campaign for Lingle’s opponent, Democrat Mazie Hirono.
“At best it’s misleading. At worst it’s insulting,” Inouye said of the video, which features Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee talking about how Inouye would retain power even in a GOP-controlled Senate along with side-by-side pictures of Lingle and Inouye. “I would hope they take it down, because that’s not the way you run a business.”
Inouye’s support for Hirono and desire to see Democrats elected to any attainable Senate seat is not new or surprising.
Inouye’s political action committee has contributed $10,000 apiece to Hirono and more than 20 other Democrats running for Senate this year, according to Federal Election Commission filings compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Inouye spokesman Peter Boylan said Thursday Inouye has held fundraisers on Hirono’s behalf and given money to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which also supports Hirono, making him “her largest donor in many ways.”
Inouye said he believes Democrats will hold onto the Senate and that he’s “not making any plans to close my shop,” but acknowledged that he’s told supporters and would-be donors “it’s absolutely essential that all Democratic candidates be looked upon favorably, and obviously, I’m from Hawaii, I’m hoping that Mazie will be my junior partner.” Even Lee said Thursday that the Lingle camp always expected Inouye to back his party’s candidate.
But Inouye’s comments Thursday are his most direct criticism of Lingle so far this year — he called her campaign “desperate” and mocked the idea that they were ever collegial when she was Hawaii’s governor.
“Now, she’s been in office for two terms. During those two terms, she visited my Washington office once and my Honolulu office once,” said Inouye, counting on his fingers for emphasis in an interview with reporters at a round table in the Hart Senate Building here. “Is that a sign of close friendship?”
In response, Lingle’s campaign noted two instances where the governor and senator did work together: saving local jobs at the Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard in 2005 and the Akaka Bill in 2003. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin front page on Feb. 25, 2003, read “Inouye: Gov key to Akaka bill” in boldface and the story included this quote from Inouye: “Maybe I am expecting too much from the governor, but I think she will do the job.”
The campaign also cited the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative and supporting the military as two issues on which Inouye and Lingle see eye-to-eye.
“The question of concern should be, why would Senator Inouye not want an effective, articulate leader who has the common interest of Hawaii’s people on the other side of the aisle? Having a bipartisan delegation will strengthen Hawaii’s positioning on all issues of national and local importance,” Lee said in the campaign statement. “A foot in both camps is the clear way to ensure our state’s success.”
Hirono’s campaign disagrees. Campaign spokesman Kinsey Kiriakos said in an email Thursday that a Lingle victory “would likely mean that Senator Inouye would lose his Chairmanship on the Senate Appropriations Committee.”
“This would be terrible for Hawaii — Senator Inouye’s leadership in the Senate and as Appropriations Chairman has been invaluable to the Aloha State,” Kiriakos said.
Lee said the video “in no way implies an endorsement from the Senator. It simply states my personal opinion, having worked with both of these key leaders.” He chalked up Inouye’s comments to campaign season “rhetoric” and said President Barack Obama works with Inouye even though Inouye supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary.
“Campaign season will come and go, but governing requires the ability to work together,” Lee said in the statement. “Both Senator Inouye and Governor Lingle know this important fact.”
Be that as it may, it is still campaign season, and Inouye’s comments are a preview of how Hirono might deploy the revered senior senator in the final weeks of the race.
“Senator Inouye has been incredibly supportive of Mazie’s campaign to date, and Mazie looks forward to and greatly appreciates his continued involvement in our campaign in the weeks to come,” Kiriakos said.
Asked if he plans to actively campaign for Hirono, Inouye said, “Absolutely. This ad gave me an incentive to do so.”
He said he’ll be in Hawaii in mid-October and will be shooting a television spot for Hirono as soon as he arrives. He expects to make joint appearances with Hirono “quite often” but said he’d need to consult his calendar to see where and when that will happen.