HONOLULU (AP) — The two candidates vying for a U.S. Senate seat in November planned to meet in their first televised debate Monday night, two weeks before early voting begins across Hawaii.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono and Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle were scheduled to face off on KHON-TV in a debate co-sponsored by the Hawaii chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons.
If the debate follows the themes that have emerged during the race, Hirono will try to link Lingle with national Republicans and Mitt Romney, the presidential nominee trying to stop President Barack Obama from winning re-election.
Lingle will try to paint Hirono as an ineffective legislator who doesn't understand the local or national issues she'd face decisions about as a U.S. senator. She'll also link Hirono with a Congress that has been given low approval ratings.
The debate comes as Lingle tries to convince voters of her bipartisanship, arguing that it's best for Hawaii to have one Republican and one Democrat senator so the state isn't marginalized if one party holds power. The seat is open because U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, a Democrat, is retiring.
Hirono and other Democrats argue Lingle is key to Republican hopes for taking over the Senate. The GOP needs to pick up four seats across the country to gain majority control.
Lingle is an underdog, but has more campaign money than Hirono and won two terms as governor in Hawaii, which generally supports Democrats. But Obama, who was born in Honolulu, is at the top of the ticket.
Obama is very likely to carry Hawaii and its four electoral votes in the presidential contest, meaning Lingle needs some Obama supporters to back her, too.
Hirono argues she would be a strong ally of Obama.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .