Congressional candidates tone it down in latest debate
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
There were no fireworks at last night's televised debate in the special election for Congress, as the three top candidates chose to focus on the issues instead of sniping at each other.
Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, both Democrats, and Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, took part in the hourlong debate sponsored by KITV4 and the League of Women Voters.
Unlike Monday's debate, which featured lively exchanges among the candidates, last night's event in the KITV studio was more subdued as the three stuck to their rehearsed answers and rarely deviated from their scripts.
Case did take several swipes at Djou on the councilmember's positions on health care reform, taxation and the national deficit, and Djou repeated that he's the only one of the three who lives in the 1st Congressional District. Hanabusa criticized Djou because he has often cast the sole "nay" vote on the council, which Hanabusa said is a "wasted vote."
For the most part, however, many of the answers from the candidates were similar to previous debates, even though the questions may have been different.
The debate's panel of KITV reporters Keoki Kerr, Daryl Huff and Denby Fawcett was able to probe the personal qualities of each candidate based on their positions on certain issues.
Case was asked about his commitment to the people of Hawai'i because he has run for three of Hawai'i's four congressional seats, as well as for governor of Hawai'i, and hasn't ruled out another run for U.S. Senate.
Case assured the voters that he is committed to serving his constituents.
"My ambition has been to serve the people of Hawai'i in public office. I don't believe that there's anything wrong with me saying I want to serve," Case said. "I believe that I can serve you and I believe that I can function in the offices that I've run for."
Kerr asked Hanabusa to assure voters that she can be an independent voice and not a puppet of Sen. Daniel Inouye, who has endorsed her candidacy and thrown money at her campaign.
Hanabusa said Inouye is supporting her because she is "not anyone's rubber stamp."
"The reason why Sen. Inouye has given me his support is he has told people publicly, one, my word is good, and two, he knows he can rely on me whenever I say yes or no," Hanabusa said. "He doesn't expect me to agree with him."
Djou was questioned about his opposition to congressional earmarks, which bring millions of dollars in projects to the state. By turning down earmarks, Djou would be hurting the state, Kerr said.
Djou responded that by cleaning up the federal budget process and making it more transparent, money will continue to pour into the local economy.
"The majority of our earmarks come from the Department of Defense budget. You talk to most of the senior officials in the Department of Defense, they will tell you Hawai'i will score very favorably in a system where the entire budgeting process is done fairly, is done transparently, instead of done with backroom deals and political back-scratching," Djou said.
Ballots have been mailed to more than 317,000 registered voters in the district. The results will be announced on May 22.