Hanabusa will pull campaign TV ad
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Succumbing to criticism, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa yesterday said she will pull a television advertisement for her campaign for Congress that claims she cut legislative salaries.
The ad has been attacked by her political opponents, newspaper columnists and political analysts as deceptive. Hanabusa was among the state lawmakers who pushed for a 5 percent pay cut last year, and is urging another 3 percent pay cut this year, but the ad did not mention that the lawmakers had just received 36 percent pay increases.
The pay raises had been recommended by a voter-approved salary commission before the recession, but the timing of the raises as lawmakers were making significant state budget cuts led to public outrage.
Many observers have said privately that criticism of the pay raises has at times been overblown, but even Democrats close to Hanabusa believe it was a tactical mistake to touch the subject in a campaign ad given the political climate.
"Let me be clear. At no time was it ever my intention to be misleading with any television commercial," Hanabusa said in an e-mail to supporters.
"And while I continue to stand behind the accuracy of the ad, I understand that there are those out there who have been concerned with the commercial's content. I hear you loud and clear.
"In listening to you and in consultation with members of my campaign, I have decided to discontinue running the ad."
Hanabusa, former congressman Ed Case and Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou are the leading contenders in the May 22 special election to serve the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie's term in Congress. Abercrombie resigned to focus on his campaign in the Democratic primary for governor.
"Obviously, she pulled them because she knew she was being dishonest and misrepresenting her record," said Jonah Ka'auwai, the chairman of the state Republican Party.
National Democrats, meanwhile, are increasingly concerned that Hanabusa and Case may split the Democratic vote in the winner-take-all election and enable Djou, a Republican, to pull an upset.
Some national Democrats, sources said yesterday, want the party to choose a favorite and have urged the White House to get involved to avoid the embarrassment of losing in President Obama's hometown urban Honolulu congressional district.
A Republican victory in traditionally Democratic Hawai'i would be compared nationally to U.S. Sen. Scott Brown's GOP win in Massachusetts in January.
While Case has the highest name recognition, Hanabusa has strong support among the party's establishment and labor unions.
U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the state's leading Democrat, sent a fundraising appeal Wednesday on Hanabusa's behalf that said the state Senate president is in a "tough fight."
"Colleen is a fighter, a reformer, a team player," Inouye wrote. "She is a quick study, and when she gives you her word, you can take it to the bank. Colleen does not forget her friends.
"Neither of her opponents is good for Hawai'i's congressional delegation, or our nation."
Case, a moderate, has stressed his independence and his desire to change the political culture both in Hawai'i and Washington. "This candidate has never been about representing just one party, just one person, just one special interest," he said in a recent campaign ad. "I've always believed that my obligation was to represent all of the people."