HONOLULU (AP) — Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle is distancing herself from comments made by presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the fellow Republican said in an offhanded comment that he doesn't worry about the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes.
The U.S. Senate candidate said Wednesday in a statement emailed to The Associated Press that she disagrees with Romney's characterization that those who don't pay income taxes believe they are victims and that the government has a responsibility to care for them.
"I am not a rubber stamp for the national party and I am not responsible for the statements of Mitt Romney," Lingle said. "With that said, I do not agree with his characterization of all individuals who are receiving government assistance, as I know many of them are driven, hard-working individuals who are actively working to better the situation of their ohana. It is not fair to place these individuals into any one category."
The comments revealed through a hidden camera recording of a private fundraiser have rocked the presidential campaign and touched other contests around the country. Republican Sens. Dean Heller in Nevada and Scott Brown in Massachusetts, both running for re-election, pointed to their own histories in disagreeing with Romney.
Lingle, who has said she is voting for Romney but thinks it's reasonable for Hawaii voters to vote for her even if they're supporting Obama, will stick with that vote and keep her title as honorary co-chair of the Jewish Americans for Romney Coalition, campaign spokeswoman Corrie Heck said.
"The people of Hawaii know I don't believe in labels and I know they don't either,"
Lingle's opponent, U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, slammed Lingle earlier in the day for not immediately condemning the remarks. Hirono said Romney's view are unacceptable and one more reason Obama should be reelected.
"Romney is saying, 'If you support President Obama, you're lazy. You have no self-respect. You don't pay taxes. And I won't be your president,'" Hirono said during a speech at a convention for longshore and warehouse workers.
"Here in Hawaii, where President Obama was raised — where President Obama received over 71 percent of the vote in 2008 — Mitt Romney is writing off a whole lot of people," Hirono said.
Hawaii's heavy support for Obama is one of several disadvantages for Lingle as she tries to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. Lingle needs some conservative Democrats to accept her pitch as a bipartisan leader, while Hirono emphasizes Lingle's ties to Romney and national Republicans.
Republicans are hoping to pick up four seats nationwide to win a majority of the U.S. Senate.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia .