The Republican nominee for Hawaii's open U.S. Senate seat is being criticized by Democrats for trying to promote a record of bipartisanship, a charge she responded to by posting a photo of herself with President Barack Obama to Facebook.
Former Gov. Linda Lingle has in recent weeks been touting a bipartisan record, but Democrats attacked the campaign strategy Friday, noting both her questioning of whether the country would be safe with Obama in the White House and also her decision to skip a 2008 National Governors Association meeting with the then president-elect. Lingle responded by posting the photo of herself and Obama at a 2009 White House dinner for governors. Lingle is running against Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono for the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).
Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D) used Friday's Democratic Party Grand Rally to "set the record straight" by outlining what he said was Lingle's opposition to bipartisanship. He cited a 2002 comment of her praising former President George W. Bush and her decision in 2008 to place Sarah Palin's name in nomination for vice president at the Republican National Convention. In addition, he mentioned the NGA meeting and a campaign stop Lingle made for the McCain/Palin ticket in Nevada.
"I want us to not accept that extreme makeover," Schatz told the crowd.
The Las Vegas Sun reported in 2008 that Lingle told 60 people in Henderson that she did not know Obama and that he had not called her even though he was from Hawaii. She also questioned Obama's abiltiies, telling the crowd "it's the protection of your families that's at stake."
Lingle's campaign manager, Bob Lee, told HuffPost that while Lingle campaigned for then-presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as a Republican, she is prepared to work with Obama should the two be elected in November. He said her remarks in Nevada were part of the campaign.
"Governor Lingle said she will support President Obama if the policies are right for Hawaii," Lee said. "Likewise with Governor Romney. The key is don't be the rubber stamp."
Lingle skipped the December 2008 meeting arranged by the NGA for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, which the group noted was attended by 40 governors. The NGA touted the Philadelphia meeting as a way for governors to communicate with Obama. At the time it was reported that Lingle could not get across the country to attend the meeting. The New York Times reported after the meeting that Obama and Lingle communicated via letter and that Lingle was trying to set up a meeting with Obama.
Lingle's campaign fired back Saturday by saying that Lingle did not skip a meeting and posted a photo of Lingle and Obama at the February 2009 White House dinner, which is part of the annual NGA winter meeting.
During his speech Friday, Lt. Gov. Schatz made reference to a meeting following the election that included a meal, and not the separate NGA meeting and dinner in 2009. It is not known if the 2008 Philadelphia meeting that Lingle missed included lunch between Obama and governors.
Lee, Lingle's campaign manager, told HuffPost that he believes that Schatz was making reference to the 2009 Washington NGA meeting, noting that he and members of Lingle's gubernatorial staff believe that Obama called the 2008 Philadelphia meeting, rather than the NGA organizing the meeting with the president. Lee said Lingle could not use two days of flying time for a "few hour meeting" while she was working on the budget.
"We were at the end of the year trying to figure out the budget," Lee said of Lingle's absence.
According to an archived version of the NGA's website from December 2008, the group touts the Philadelphia meeting that it said was between the NGA and Obama, along with releasing two photos of the meeting and a video. In the photo, Obama and Biden can be seen at the head table with then Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and then Vermont Gov. James Douglas (R), then the chairman and vice chairman of the governors association.