HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's Democratic party candidates woke up early Sunday to prepare for the general election and to signal that they're uniting to battle Linda Lingle in the race for the U.S. Senate.
Many of the candidates, both winners and losers, gathered at the Ala Moana Hotel at 7 a.m. for the party's traditional Unity Breakfast. It was an event where primary rivals could shake hands -- even Ben Cayetano and Kirk Caldwell, two Democrats who'll face each other in a runoff in the non-partisan Honolulu mayor's race.
It was a morning where those who were defeated could be gracious to the victors. "Mazie, you won this straight up. Congratulations," Ed Case said onstage to U.S. Senate primary winner Mazie Hirono.
Hirono was gracious in return. "I want to thank Ed for running a really strong campaign to provide voters with choices," she said before the breakfast.
Relative newcomer Tulsi Gabbard, winner of the Democratic primary for the Second Congressional District, sat at a head table with First District Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, Sen. and Mrs. Daniel Inouye, Gov. Neil Abercrombie, and former governors Cayetano and George Ariyoshi.
"It's a very serious responsibility and a tremendous privilege to be in a position to serve and fight for the people of Hawaii," she told reporters prior to the breakfast. Gabbard also appeared on stage with three of her Democratic primary rivals, including Esther Kia'aina, Miles Shiratori and Rafael Del Castillo.
Two other candidates in her primary, Mufi Hannemann and Hilo attorney Bob Marx, did not attend the breakfast. Retiring U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka also was not present.
Longtime Honolulu rail transit supporter Inouye acknowledged that his sitting with Cayetano -- who has vowed to stop the project -- was itself a sign of unity. "Absolutely," said Inouye. He added, "Whoever, becomes mayor, I will do whatever I can to be of help, but I can assure you that I'm for rail."
Rail wasn't the only issue. Democrats said they'll unite to re-elect President Barack Obama. They also wasted no time attacking Hirono's Republican challenger, former Gov. Linda Lingle, to keep a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
"The Republican Party nationally is pushing to have Linda Lingle elected because they think she can be the 51st vote," Abercrombie told the gathering.
"They do not care how she portrays herself in Hawaii, although we do," said Hirono, referring to the national GOP. "They do not care because she is the one vote they need for the four votes to take over the senate."
The early event was just the first of four unity gatherings for the Democrats Sunday. Many of those at the breakfast left immediately for the airport, destination Hilo. Unity gatherings were also scheduled for Kailua-Kona and Maui. A unity event is scheduled for Tuesday on Kauai.
"Congratulations to all of you who were victorious, and to all of you who did not quite make it, thank you for a valiant fight," Inouye said to the audience.
"Now join hands, and let's work together."
For a full list of primary elections results, click here.