“This has been an amazing night for me, an amazing journey,” Hirono said in her victory speech.
Pointing to President Barack Obama’s decisive re-election, Hirono said, “The country is going to continue on the right path.”
She also spoke about her opponent: “I want to thank Linda Lingle for running a very vigorous campaign that enabled our voters to determine what our positions were, so that they could decide.”
And Hirono thanked her mother and her mother-in-law, and said that the election was a validation of the need to care for keiki and kupuna.
“That’s what our campaign has always focused on,” she said.
Hirono will become the first Asian-American female senator, the first Senator to be born in Asia, and and Hawaii’s first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.
She will succeed Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is retiring after nearly 40 years in Congress.
Speaking to supporters at her campaign headquarters, Lingle said, “As I told each one of you … one of the great things about campaigns is that you make lifelong friends. And we have certainly made them in this race.”
She added, “To the people all across the state those who have helped us on every island, I want to say thank you for all the sacrifices you made for me in this race.”
Hirono, the Democrat, is a U.S. Representative and former lieutenant governor and state legislator. Lingle, the Republican, is a former governor, Maui mayor and Maui County Councilwoman.
Lingle defeated Hirono for the governor’s office in 2002, and became Hawaii’s first Republican governor in 40 years. She is also the only woman to serve as Hawaii’s governor, and the first Jew.
Neither candidate was born in Hawaii: Lingle, 59, was born in St. Louis, Mo., while Hirono, 65, was born in Japan and emigrated with her family to Hawaii as a child. Hirono is also one of only a handful of Buddhists serving in Congress.
The 2012 rematch between Lingle and Hirono would not have happened had Hirono not defeated Ed Case in the Aug. 11 primary. (Lingle faced only nominal primary competition.) Case ran as a moderate while Hirono ran as a liberal Democrat, and voters sided with Hirono by a double-digit margin.
Hirono’s platform heavily stressed the need to preserve Social Security and Medicare and to keep Democrats a majority in the Senate. Were they to lose the chamber, Hirono warned that Sen. Daniel K. Inouye would lose his chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Committee. And, Hirono closely aligned herself with President Barack Obama and his agenda.
Lingle also said she wanted to protect entitlement programs, though she differed on approaches. She argued that, should Republicans win the Senate and the White House, Hawaii would benefit by having a senator from that party. She also said she had a record of working in a bipartisan fashion, including with Inouye.
Both candidates promoted tourism and renewable energy. And both candidates spent heavily on advertising to criticize each other.
Initially, the Hawaii Senate race was identified nationally as one of the most closely contested seats that could help decide control of the Senate. The expectation was that heavy spending from mainland groups including super PACs would be spent in the local market.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce did spend more than $1 million on behalf of Lingle’s candidacy, and both campaigns were helped by outside money. Ultimately, however, the super PAC spending did not rise to the levels in states where Senate races were more closely contested.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues