Twenty years after the Year of the Women in 1992, when the most female elected officials joined the Senate, some states are still joining the list of states with female senators. Hawaii will become the one of the most recent additions after their Senate elections — whether a Republican or a Democrat is elected. Both candidates for the Hawaii senate seat are women, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D - HI) and former Gov. Linda Lingle (R - HI). The two women are no strangers to one another; they faced off in 2002 for the governor seat, and Lingle beat Hirono.
Rep. Hirono secured the Democratic primary with 58% of the vote while running against Rep. Ed Chase. The three-term congresswoman has the endorsement of EMILY’s List, a political group “dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office.”
Hirono’s endorsements have come from all sides. Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska has publicly endorsed Democratic Rep. Hirono in her senate campaign. The two representatives have worked together on legislation protecting native education in their states. Rep. Young’s endorsement emphasizes Hirono’s ability to work across party lines and achieve successful bipartisan cooperation.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle seems to get the importance of bipartisan participation as well. Lingle decided to skip the 2008 National Governors Association (NGA) meeting with newly elected President Obama. However, a picture of President Obama, a Hawaii native, and Lingle was recently posted on the former governor’s Facebook page. Critics have continued to criticize Lingle, saying the picture is from a 2009 White House Dinner she attended, not from the NGA meeting in Philadelphia she dismissed in 2008.
If elected, Lingle would become the sixth Republican woman in U.S. history to hold a Senate seat. Hirono would join the list of 17 women who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. Senate.
With 2012 also a presidential election year, the Hirono vs. Lingle face-off will have a different feel than it did in the 2002 governor race. Hawaii is President Obama’s home state and will be more likely to favor Democratic Hirono. There will, however, be a media frenzy over these two female rivals, whose encounters have been portrayed more like cat fights than political debates. Regardless of who wins, Hawaii will contribute another female to the small number of women who serve as Senators, and that is no small achievement.