HONOLULU - U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono focused on Linda Lingle's ties to Republicans in a televised U.S. Senate debate Tuesday night, linking the former Hawaii governor to Mitt Romney and other GOP figures whenever given the chance.
Lingle retorted by saying she's a leader and not a follower, while Democrat Hirono needs to focus on Lingle's party because she is unable to stand on her own.
"Her entire campaign has been built on the record of others," Lingle said.
Hirono said a Lingle win in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, who is retiring, would put the GOP one vote closer to winning majority power in the Senate.
GOP power in the Senate would make U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye lose his position as chairman of its Appropriations Committee.
"Make no mistake about it, that is the Republicans' plan in supporting Linda Lingle," she said.
Both candidates were quick to attack one another in a prime-time debate that covered similar ground as two previous general election showdowns in terms of issues. The debate aired on KITV-TV and was co-sponsored by Hawaii news website Civil Beat.
Given two opportunities to ask Lingle questions, Hirono first asked Lingle why she was supporting Romney over Obama, then asked why Lingle supported former President George W. Bush as the nation's greatest president.
Lingle said she'd be far from a rubber stamp for the national GOP and challenged Hirono to cite where she had called Bush the greatest president.
Lingle sought to tie Hirono to a Congress with dismal national approval ratings, asking Hirono why she missed twice as many votes as the average lawmaker.
Hirono responded by saying that she has voted more than 5,000 times and missed only 5 percent of her votes. She said Lingle missed time as governor in 2008 to campaign for then-presidential candidate John McCain.
Of Hirono's voting record, Lingle said: "If a student missed that many days of school, they'd probably be held back a year."
Lingle has been running on the pitch that she's a Republican with more moderate values, and that Hawaii needs one Democrat and one Republican in the Senate.
Hawaii's voters lean heavily Democratic and are expected to strongly back Obama, who was born in Honolulu, in the presidential race. Hawaii carries four electoral votes in the presidential race.
Hirono argued that she'd be the stronger ally for Obama and Hawaii's values, with Lingle in line with the national GOP.
Hirono lost an election to Lingle in 2002, when both were running for governor. Lingle went on to serve two terms.
Asked what was different now, Hirono said: "Times have changed in 10 years. We now have my Republican opponent with a record, and she has a mixed record."