After much anticipation, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Ed Case and U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono finally sat down for their first debate. The forum on May 29 was hosted by the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association (HLTA), so topics didn’t really explore much beyond the visitor industry.

Both candidates demonstrated their eagerness to tap further into the burgeoning Chinese tourist market. “I have been a champion and an advocate for this industry for a really long time,” said Mazie, who continually mentioned the Visit USA Act she co-introduced in the House on Nov. 3, 2011. The bill would reform the visa process and make it easier for Chinese travelers to visit Hawaii.

Case countered by questioning why Hirono had waited until the end of hr two three-year terms to push the bill, and also noted that the bill had stalled in committee. “There is no doubt that the VISIT USA Bill is a good idea, but who can get it done?” he said. “She waited four years and eleven months to introduce it.”

Hirono kept her speech in a very relaxed, cue-card conversational tone, while Case predictably seemed more eager to do some real debating. The two will match wits in four more debates before the primary election August 11.