THE 2ND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
The campaigns of Democrat Mazie Hirono, left, and Republican state Sen. Bob Hogue have each resorted to ads featuring quotes edited to do maximum damage.
Hogue ad strikes back with quotes about Hirono
Snipped citations mark a turn to nasty in the final ad blitz
Back in August, when he was running against her in the primary, Democrat Brian Schatz questioned Mazie Hirono's public service since she left the Lieutenant Governor's office, publicly asking, "where has she been over the last four years, or the last 12 years?"
With Hirono having emerged from the 10-candidate Democratic field in the primary, that Aug. 2 quote from Schatz has made its way to the airwaves as part of an ad for her opponent, Republican state Sen. Bob Hogue.
Hogue has used the quote in ads that popped up after Hirono began airing commercials that tie him to unpopular policies of the Bush administration by repeatedly playing a sound bite of Hogue saying he supports the president.
"I think it's normal in any race, as things heat up, you have more and more negative ads," said Rick Castberg, chairman of the political science department at the University of Hawaii-Hilo. "It's heating up. I hope it doesn't get out of hand."
While the campaigns were mostly cordial during the primary, the tenor has changed. The campaigns appear to be taking on the character of more bitter mainland contests, with harsh criticisms of the other side taking comments out of context and distorting records.
Even Hirono's ad seemed "pretty strong for Hawaii," Castberg said.
Julie Stauch, Hirono's campaign manager, said she understands that some people may view the ads as negative, but adds that she sees nothing wrong with highlighting the differences between the two candidates.
"No matter where you go, there are people who are uncomfortable with any discussion of peoples' records," Stauch said. "It's unfortunate that they classify everything as negative, when in fact this is a comparative ad that we're running.
"Contrast that with Bob's (ad campaign). Bob's is not comparative, Bob's actually is a negative because all he does is he's attacking Mazie in ways that are personal and not about her record."
She noted that all of the Hirono campaign's statements about Hogue are based on his past votes or statements he has made on record.
Hogue's campaign has criticized Hirono's ads and campaign mailings, saying they "are over the top."
Malia Smith, Hogue's campaign manager, said that the campaign has received calls, e-mails and comments from people coming into their Kailua headquarters criticizing Hirono.
"They basically say that they are just tired of Mazie having the need to run against the president," Smith said.
"It's not just about Iraq," she added. "That is an important issue, but it's about the people of the 2nd Congressional District. That's what is important and that's why Bob is running."
She added that the commercial repeating Hogue's quote saying he supports the president is misleading, because he goes on to say that he supports the president on some issues, but not others.
"But they just cut it, took it out of context and basically kept running it over and over again," Smith said. "Everybody's ultimate goal is to win, but to do it like that is distorting and misleading for people, and that's what's distressing."
Hogue has countered with ads that use quotes citing other Democrats, including Schatz, that are critical of Hirono.
For his part, Schatz said he now supports Hirono.
"I think she has demonstrated that she has the experience and the skills to handle the Congress," he said.
"The primary was a tough contest," he added, "but make no mistake, I strongly support Mazie Hirono for Congress."
Whether any of the political rhetoric translates to votes remains to be seen, but Castberg said he is doubtful the final ad blitz will have much effect.
"I think at this point, most peoples' minds are pretty made up," he said. "I can't imagine people changing in the last week before the election."