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Bipartisan Buddies

Mazie Hirono Says Ad Featuring GOP Colleague Shows Her Willingness to Work Across Aisle for Hawaii

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono, who is running for Hawaii’s open Senate seat, is airing an ad featuring Republican Rep. Don Young in an effort to show her bipartisan bona fides.

In Democratic-dominated Hawaii, it may have seemed odd for Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) to tout the endorsement of a Republican Congressman less than three weeks before her party’s primary for the state’s open Senate seat.

But even in a state where the Congressional delegation consistently supports Democratic policies and President Barack Obama should win by a wide margin, the ability to work across party lines on behalf of Hawaii’s interests is an attractive message for voters across the political spectrum, Hirono and her campaign said Wednesday.

“They like to see all of us working together to get things done,” Hirono told Roll Call in an interview.

The Congresswoman said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) reached out to her to see what he could do on her behalf, including offering to film an ad with her. Their relationship was forged largely out of a joint amendment they pushed early last year to secure federal funding for education programs for native Hawaiians and native Alaskans.

“This is a real example of how I got things done in a bipartisan way,” Hirono said, attempting to emphasize her bipartisan credentials despite voting with her party 99 percent of the time in her first two terms in the House and voting with Obama 95 percent of the time in 2009 and 2010.

Hirono has establishment support and a huge fundraising advantage. The Congresswoman’s internal polling has shown her with a wide lead over former Rep. Ed Case for the Democratic nomination. But the race isn’t over.

Waiting for the winner is former two-term Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has spent the past several months reaching out to independents and conservative Democrats in an effort to win crossover voters who will likely back Obama.

Young’s endorsement serves as a general election buffer for Hirono, who has been hit from both sides for her connections to the Democratic establishment. She has been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is a member of the liberal Congressional Progressive Caucus and is a dependable vote for her party.

The lighthearted ad with Young shows Hirono and the Alaska Republican in a comfortable working relationship. He jokingly wants to voice his negative opinion of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — before Hirono stops him — and touts Hirono’s efforts for both Hawaii and the Last Frontier.

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