Supporters of Republican Linda Lingle take their message to motorists… (Ronen Zilberman / Associated…)
Linda Lingle, the former governor of Hawaii, is poised to run for the U.S. Senate, giving Republicans one of their best opportunities as they seek to win control of the chamber in 2012.
Lingle, 58, was the first woman to be governor of Hawaii and served two terms. She is scheduled to make her announcement today at a luncheon for marketing executives in Honolulu.
Her candidacy was first reported in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, but Democrats lost no time trying to undermine the popular former chief executive by linking her to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the GOP’s candidate for vice president in 2008. Speaking in prime time at that year's Republican convention, Lingle praised Palin, with whom she became friends as fellow Republican governors. It was the equivalent of a nominating speech for Palin, who was selected by then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain as his running mate.
“Today marks Linda Lingle's biggest announcement since she nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President, an event that typified Lingle's partisan Republican approach to governing,” Matt Canter, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Now Lingle wants to go to Washington to become a rubber-stamp for Mitch McConnell and the Republican party whose sole priority is to defeat President Obama at every turn.”
Republicans need a net gain of four seats to win control of the Senate, and Hawaii may represent one of the GOP's best opportunities to achieve that goal. The seat is held by Sen. Daniel Akaka, 86, who announced that he will not seek reelection in 2012, setting up Hawaii’s first open Senate race in more than two decades.
Akaka’s departure has set up a scramble among Democrats. Rep. Mazie Hirono and former Rep. Ed Case are competing for the party's nomination. Case challenged Akaka for the nomination in 2006, leading to speculation that most of the party’s establishment would rather back Hirono. Sen. Daniel Inouye has made it clear he favors Hirono.
A battle between Lingle and Hirono would be a repeat of the 2002 governor’s race, which Lingle won by 5 percentage points. Lingle handily won reelection in 2006, with 63% of the vote.