WASHINGTON -- Hawaii GOP Senate candidate Linda Lingle held a fundraiser in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening, and the special guest at the event was Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), author of a controversial amendment on contraception.
Lingle's event -- chaired by prominent GOP fundraisers Bill Marriott, Fred Malek and Roger Dow -- cost between $500 and $5,000 to get in.
Blunt has been best known in recent weeks for sponsoring an amendment that would have overridden the Obama administration's new contraception coverage rule and allowed any employer to refuse to cover any kind of health care service by citing "moral reasons." It failed in the Senate last week on a vote of 51 to 48.
Although Obama's contraception mandate includes a broad exemption for churches and faith-based employers, Senate Republicans argue that requiring any employer, even a non-religious one, to cover health services that they oppose is an attack on religious freedom.
Lingle considers herself pro-abortion rights, but she has not yet commented on whether she would have backed the Blunt Amendment if she were in the Senate. Her campaign did not return a request for comment.
She recently said that she would like to be a moderate lawmaker in the mold of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who recently announced she would not be seeking reelection.
"The American people deserve elected leaders, like Olympia Snowe, who are dedicated to finding a common purpose to build a stronger future for our country," Lingle said. "If elected to the U.S. Senate, I will be committed to finding common ground with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and, most importantly, will always put the people of Hawaii first in everything I do."
Snowe voted against the Blunt Amendment. She was the only Republican to do so, although Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) -- who is also considered to be one of the GOP senators most supportive of access to abortion services -- said on Sunday that she regretted voting for it.
In 2006, Lingle signed a pro-abortion rights bill removing a "90-day residential requirement for women seeking an abortion in Hawaii and a requirement that all abortions be performed only in a hospital."
Stephanie Schriock, president of the pro-choice Democratic political action committee EMILY's List, sent out a statement Tuesday criticizing Lingle.
“Linda Lingle's days of pretending to be a moderate are over,” Schriock said. "She may still be dodging questions about whether she supports right-wing Senator Blunt's infamous proposal to give your boss control of your health care coverage, but she's telling Hawai'i everything they need to know by highlighting Blunt's support for her campaign at a Washington DC fundraiser."
Two Democratic senators who are also up for reelection -- Sens. Bob Casey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (R-W.Va.) -- joined Republicans and voted for the Blunt Amendment. Both Democrats and Republicans have been running ads and fundraising on the contraception issue.
"Just as when the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] accused their own 2012 incumbents, Bob Casey and Joe Manchin, of having misplaced priorities on the economy, we certainly look forward to sharing with voters that now their fellow Democrats are also accusing them of threatening the health care of every man, woman and child in Pennsylvania and West Virginia," said Brian Walsh, communications director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Democrats have handed Republicans a range of 30-second ad opportunities in these two states based solely on their cannibalistic rhetoric of the last two weeks. We thank them."
On Monday, Blunt went to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. to receive an honor for his service to education. An audience member booed him and shouted, "Blunt is the devil!"
Lingle is expected to face off against Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who has a significant lead over her primary opponent.
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