Lingle, Hirono win Hawaii U.S. Senate primaries

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 12, 2012 12:44 PM
Lingle, Hirono win Hawaii U.S. Senate primaries

By Malia Mattoch

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A former Hawaii governor handily won the Republican primary for an open U.S. Senate race and will face a Democratic congresswoman who fended off four challengers in her own race, official results showed on Sunday.

Linda Lingle, who was governor from 2002 to 2010, won 90 percent of the vote, beating four lesser known candidates on Saturday for the Senate race in November.

Official results showed U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono won nearly 57 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, defeating Ed Case, a former congressman who came in second with 40 percent of the vote in a field of five candidates.

Republicans see the race as a prize in the state where Democratic President Barack Obama was born, as the party battles to seize control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats in November. The seat opened up when Democrat Daniel Akaka announced he would retire after 22 years in the Senate. He is 87 years old.

Hawaiians have never voted out a sitting U.S. senator, and Republicans have not won a Senate contest in the heavily Democratic state since 1970, when then-Senator Hiram Fong won re-election.

Hirono said a vote for her opponent would be a vote against Obama's health care plan and a vote in favor of tax breaks for the wealthy.

"The Republican Party only needs four additional seats to take the country in their direction," Hirono told Reuters in a phone interview. "Those are not our Hawaii values."

Republicans will need to snag four Senate seats if Obama wins re-election and three if Republican Mitt Romney prevails, because the U.S. vice president acts as president of the Senate and gets to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Lingle said in a local television interview that Hawaii was her first priority, not national politics.

While Lingle has shown an early fundraising edge in the leadup to Saturday's primary. She raised more than $4.4 million, compared to Hirono's $3.4 million, according to figures from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

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Sixty-five percent of Lingle's donations, a total of nearly $2.2 million, come from outside Hawaii, the group said.

On television, Hawaii residents have seen a constant reminder of Lingle's successful fundraising. The candidate took the unusual step of securing her own cable station, which is sandwiched between the CNN and Fox channels and runs around-the-clock information on Lingle and her campaign.

A Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll in July showed Hirono leading Lingle by 58 percent to 39 percent.

The two candidates went head to head in the 2002 contest for governor of Hawaii, which Lingle won despite trailing early in the polls.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Edith Honan)