Former Hawaii Republican governor Linda Lingle will announce she's running for the Senate for the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Her decision gives Republicans a shot at competing in the state's open-seat race, given her past ability to win in a solidly Democratic state.
The paper reported she will be announcing her candidacy Tuesday at a luncheon with business leaders in Honolulu.
Lingle served two terms as governor from 2002 until 2010, after serving as mayor of Maui. She narrowly defeated Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, to win her first term and office and won re-election with 63 percent of the vote four years later. In the Senate race, she could face a rematch against Hirono, who is facing former Rep. Ed Case in the Democratic primary.
Case irritated national Democrats earlier this year when he released a poll that showed Hirono losing to Lingle. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee immediately pushed back by by pointing to their own poll showing Hirono winning against Lingle.
Hawaii is a comfortably Democratic state, and gave President Obama his largest margin of victory in his birth state. He won 72 percent of the vote in the 2008 presidential race. But Republicans have been competitive there recently. In addition to Lingle's success, George W. Bush carried 45 percent of the vote in the 2004 presidential election. That year, former Vice President Dick Cheney made a last-minute trek to the state, in hopes of picking it off for the Republicans.
Obama's popularity in his home state should bolster downballot Democrats, but he wasn't able to boost Illinois Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, who lost last year's Illinois Senate race to now-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
Lingle could be the third Jewish Republican Senate nominee this election cycle - a time when Republicans are amping up their criticism over Obama's treatment of Israel. In Ohio, state Treasurer Josh Mandel is expected to win the Republican nomination to face Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. And in Florida, former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner is facing a competitive primary for the nomination to take on Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
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