Major candidates running for office gave campaign speeches to delegates gathered at the Democratic Party Biennial State Convention Meet and Greet event at the Sheraton Waikiki on Saturday.
Those assembled had the chance to hear from a number of candidates who will face off in the August primary election, among them, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz who will be challenged by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
“My focus is always going to be fighting for the middle class and what I’ve been able to do in the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Schatz, “fighting for our issues (such as) equal pay for equal work, making sure that college is more affordable, and increasing and enhancing Social Security.”
Rep. Hanabusa, his primary challenger, says her constituents are constantly reminding her that the late Senator Daniel Inouye favored her as his replacement in the Senate. She calls it “the parking lot test.”
“And I can’t get through a parking lot,” she said. “I can’t get through a supermarket. My husband refuses to go shopping with me because people are coming up and many of them will just simply say to me, ‘we don’t forget.'”
The race in the Democratic Senate primary will be closely watched, as will the primary race for governor. This is not the first time an incumbent has been challenged by someone within the party. And early on, there was a chance the challenger would not have a chance to take the stage. That decision was reversed.
“I’m glad that all candidates have an opportunity to address the convention this year,” said gubernatorial candidate Sen. David Ige. “I felt it was appalling that some in the party wanted to limit (the number of speeches). I’m grateful that everyone will have a chance and their voices will be heard.”
Sen. Ige says he is running against Gov. Neil Abercrombie on the part of the public.
“They feel like they’re not getting good value for their tax dollar. It really is about restoring the public trust because people feel that state government is driven by special interests, not the public interest,” he said.
As for Gov. Abercrombie, he said he welcomes the challenge and especially the chance to speak to delegates person-to-person at the convention.
“It’s easy to dismiss in today’s age with television and with social media,” Gov. Abercrombie said, “and in some respects, it’s even more important to have a convention where real people grapple with real problems and try to come up with real solutions.”
U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sen. Clayton Hee, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, Senate Pres. Donna Mercado Kim, House Speaker Joe Souki and Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui were also scheduled to speak at Saturday’s convention.