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Hawaii, Alaska 'opposites attract' in Senate race

Posted: July 26, 2012 - 11:06pm

JUNEAU — A Democrat running for a U.S. Senate seat in Hawaii is getting support from Alaska’s Republican congressman.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono’s campaign this week released a 90-second ad, entitled “Opposites Attract,” featuring the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.

The start of the ad recalls a spot from several years ago in which then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and Republican Newt Gingrich sat side by side, saying they don’t agree on all issues but agree on the need for the country to address climate change.

It is at-times playful with Young jokingly asking to speak his mind about Pelosi, and drives home a message of bipartisanship and how Hirono and Young have worked together on issues important to Alaska and Hawaii.

“But here’s what’s important, Hawaii,” Young says in the ad. “If you’re looking for a United States senator who doesn’t just talk about bipartisanship but actually knows how to work with both Republicans and Democrats to get things done, Mazie Hirono will be that senator.”

“Hawaii needs you,” he says later.

“Whatever his generous endorsement may mean for my Senate campaign, what matters most to me is that our bipartisan relationship helps solve problems for the people of Hawaii,” Hirono said in a statement. “Ours is an example of friendly cooperation and meaningful collaboration that Washington must follow, especially in challenging times like these.”

There is a history of congressional members from Hawaii and Alaska working together to ensure the needs of the country’s two youngest states are met. Sens. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, worked together from the time their states were territories, and at Stevens’ funeral in 2010, Inouye said his and Stevens’ relationship epitomized bipartisanship as they both knew they had to work together to make progress.

Young and Hirono sat together at this year’s State of the Union address, and talk of an endorsement grew from there, Young spokesman Luke Miller said.

“The endorsement had little to do with party affiliation but rather who will best represent the people of Hawaii in the U.S. Senate and work across party lines ... on issues important to Alaska,” Miller said in an email. He said it speaks both to bipartisanship and to the personal relationship between Young and Hirono.

Hirono’s campaign manager said the ad is online only right now.

Hirono faces former U.S. Rep. Ed Case in the Aug. 11 Democratic primary. The winner is likely to face Republican former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle in November in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii.

In a statement, Lingle’s campaign manager Bob Lee said Hirono’s example of working across the aisle isn’t a good one.

“It should be troubling to the people of Hawaii that Mazie Hirono’s first attempt to convey any example of bipartisanship is a video advertisement with one of the House of Representative’s most controversial members, who even Mazie’s fellow Democrats have criticized on a range of ethics and spending issues,” Lee said. “This is not the leadership Hawaii needs.”

Case said Hawaii’s next U.S. senator will need to be able to work across party lines on top national issues, not just state-specific nonpartisan issues.

“These less partisan efforts for individual state needs are not unusual in Congress,” Case said. “But what is almost totally lacking today is true bipartisanship in confronting and solving our nation’s big-picture challenges, like growing our economy, balancing our budget and preserving Social Security and Medicare.”

In Alaska, a tweet from the Twitter feed of Joe Miller, a tea party favorite during his unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate run, said “AK’s Don Young (at) it again, this time endorses liberal Dem for US Senate.”

Luke Miller made clear the endorsement is specific to the primary.

He said Young hasn’t endorsed anyone for the Hawaii general election and has no plans to do so.

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