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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 6, 2002

Democrats get tough in debate

Democratic candidate profiles:
 •  Ed Case: Smart, blunt, impatient for change
 •  Mazie Hirono: From poverty to quiet power
 •  Andy Anderson: Tough, practical and 'sassy'

By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

The unusually quiet Democratic gubernatorial campaign heated up last night with the three candidates in their first televised debate trading sharp jabs and challenging one another on their records and leadership style.

Throughout the campaign, state Rep. Ed Case, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono and businessman and former Republican state Sen. D.G. "Andy" Anderson have been largely civil and friendly to one another. But last night, broadcast live on KHON Channel 2, the candidates seized on the opportunity to probe for weaknesses in their opponents.

The political hits seemed to come largely from Case and Anderson, who badly need a boost from the debates. Recent polls show Hirono leading Case by a comfortable margin, with Anderson trailing in third. As the front-runner, Hirono has more to lose by engaging in a political boxing match, and her questions and comments seemed to be less pointed and combative than her opponents.

The three Democrats will face one another in the Sept. 21 primary election. The winner will advance to the general election and will likely face Linda Lingle, the Republican front-runner.

Democrats Ed Case, left, Andy Anderson and Mazie Hirono prepared at the KHON-TV studio for their televised gubernatorial debate last night. Floor director Dean Kinoshita is at right.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, 54, has previously served in the state House representing Honolulu neighborhoods for 14 years until she was elected lieutenant governor in 1994. Case, 49, has been a state representative for the Manoa district since 1994. Anderson, 72, once served as a city managing director and is running for governor for the third time.

Case highlighted his local background and promoted himself as the only true agent for change in the state. Anderson wasted no time in criticizing his opponents, saying, "If they worked for me in the private sector and I was their boss, I would have fired them a long time ago."

Hirono focused on her background, citing her childhood days at Koko Head Elementary School and stressing her commitment to public service.

The real fireworks began when the candidates directed questions to one another.

Case's question to Anderson outlined a list of criticisms. He said Anderson has no plan for fixing the economy or cleaning up government, no major plans for fixing the education system, and surrounding himself with "old boys."

"You're endorsed by the most entrenched elements of the status quo, and you haven't proposed any significant change in 16 years," Case said. "With this record, how can you bring change now?"

Anderson shot back: "Mr. Case, you're just too young to know history. I started advocating change when you were a (teeny) bopper. I've been arguing about change in this state for so many years, you have no idea."

Anderson said he knows the issues and that he has people of integrity supporting him. Then he criticized Case: "The very budget that you are running against, the very government that you were criticizing, you've contributed to, you participated in, and you made it what it is, but now it's an opportune time for you to campaign against what you did and that's wrong."

Anderson took the same approach in questioning Case, first noting that Case angered the Native Hawaiian community while chairman of the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee, and accusing him of failing to provide leadership as House majority leader.

Case said he apologized to the Native Hawaiian community for not consulting them when introducing a bill to combine the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to protect Native Hawaiian entitlements. He said he has been advocating for change and making tough decisions for eight years, while Anderson has been out of government for 16 years and Hirono has had no decision-making capacity for eight years.

Anderson asked Hirono what she has done as lieutenant governor. She said she has worked to lower workers' compensation premiums and established a program that creates public-private preschools for 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families.

Anderson then attempted to poke holes in Hirono's answer, saying that he doesn't see people benefiting from the preschool program. "We certainly have to start somewhere, Andy," Hirono said, adding that by the end of the year there would be 13 of the preschool programs across the state.

Hirono questioned Anderson's sincerity in running as a Democrat. Anderson said that a Republican governor would not be able to turn the state around with a Democratic-controlled Legislature and noted: "It's strange that you have this komo mai banner, but when somebody like Andy Anderson walks in, all of a sudden I'm suspect."

Case listed a number of criticisms against Hirono similar to those he shot at Anderson, saying that she hasn't fought for any significant change as lieutenant governor and that she has no plan to improve the economy.

Hirono said leadership is more than about taking positions, but that it's about creating change and actions. She said she has always advocated for change, pointing to her campaign to oust then House Speaker Henry Peters when she was a representative.

Hirono noted some descriptions of Case being overbearing and dictatorial and asked Case if he is adopting her leadership style in being collaborative. He said he has always believed in collaboration and consensus and he has developed an inclusive style of leadership.

Hirono questioned Case's answer that the governor's ultimate job is to make decisions, asking isn't the most important duty of the governor to create actions to enact an agenda?

Case said he believes in that style but that the governor must make decisions that are for the betterment of everyone. That's why, he said, being surrounded by special interests and the status quo means not having the independence or motivation to do what voters want.

Reach Lynda Arakawa at larakawa@honoluluadvertiser.com or at 525-8070.

Correction: The debate between the three Democratic candidates for governor was broadcast live on KHON Channel 2. A previous version of this story left out the name of the station.