HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Undoubtedly, public safety has always been of utmost importance to Governor Lingle and continues to be so," said Tenari Maafala, president of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.
SHOPO announced Monday it will endorse Republican Linda Lingle to succeed retiring Democrat Daniel Akaka in the U.S. Senate.
"To have the endorsement of people who put their lives on the line every day has a lot of significance," Lingle said.
The vote from the police officer union's board of directors was unanimous.
"It's the person's heart and the person's mission for the people of Hawaii in totality that we look after, whether you're a Democrat, Republican or bi-partisan," Maafala said.
"They're saying, 'We don't care what your political party is. You put people first always. and that's what we do as police officers,'" Lingle said.
SHOPO also supported Lingle in her governor's campaigns. This endorsement comes as the election year commences.
Democratic candidates responded to not getting the nod.
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono's campaign released this statement: "When Republicans try to cut the COPS program like they've done time and again, Mazie will stand up in the Senate to keep law enforcement on the job."
Ed Case said he hopes to land police backing in the voting booth.
"I've talked story with many members of the police force and law enforcement community across Hawaii. I feel very confident that they'll give us a good solid look in the primary," he said.
With 3,000 members, SHOPO is small compared to public worker unions, but it's still a high profile endorsement.
"A Republican cannot win in a state that is one of the biggest union memberships in the country without picking off union votes," Hawaii News Now political analyst Dan Boylan said.
"I've never been endorsed by most of the public employee unions. Yet, I've been able to win races," Lingle said. "It's because the grass roots members of those unions come out and support me."
Lingle faces Republican John Carroll in the primary election.
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