The recent debate between Mufi Hannemann and Neil Abercrombie was nothing short of interesting. The candidates opened with their respective talking points. Hannemann pointed to his executive experience and his time in the private sector. Abercrombie pointed to his love of Hawaii and his time in the United States Congress. Both candidates waited a few questions to begin the fire fight.
An interesting moment came when the subject of taxes were brought up. Abercrombie noted a recent story in which Honolulu Concilman, Romy Cachola, alerted the media of the huge tax increases to residents in Kalihi. Abercrombie put Hannemann on the spot as the former Congressman asked Hannemann to take responsiblity for the oversight in the area’s rezoning. Hannemann argued that the mayor has no authority on the matter and insinuated that Councilman Cachola released the information in part to help Abercrombie. Seizing on the moment, Abercrombie suggested that Hannemann either approved the rezoning or he was not aware of it. The latter would hit Hannemann’s competence.
Hannemann was on the defensive for most of the night. He took time in the opening statement to apologize for the recent mailer comparing the candidates. The brochure listed the candidates’ hometowns, wives, educational and work experience, and listed Abercrombie’s sole accomplishment as being the winner of a beard contest. The mailing received negative reactions from Gov. Linda Lingle and US Senator Daniel Inouye. Abercrombie repeatedly brought up the mailer in accusing Hannemann of downplaying the importance of the University of Hawaii. Hannemann expressed his appreciation for the University of Hawaii and agreed that it is a good school. Hannemann accused Abercrombie of stretching the truth and spinning the issue out of control.
Both men agreed on ending the practice of sending Hawaii inmates to mainland prisons and focusing on the economy and job creation as the top priority. It will be interesting to see how the two candidates treat each other in the coming weeks and debates. Abercrombie leads in the polls over Hannemann, however, the primary is still four weeks away. Many things can happen between now and September 18th.