The general election is two months away, but the fight for votes has begun.
The four candidates vying for the state’s top job — Republican Duke Aiona, Democrat David Ige, Independent Mufi Hannemann and Libertarian Jeff Davis — all faced-off against each other for the first time.
The candidates kept their cards close to the vest at the forum sponsored by the West Oahu Economic Development Association. Political analysts say that’s not unusual until the run-up to the general election.
The luncheon forum, moderated by KHON2 News’ Gina Mangieri, had the gubernatorial candidates address issues ranging from same-sex marriage to mass transit to public education.
This is the first time all four candidates have been on the same stage.
Businessman Jeff Davis got involved in politics because “it’s something that chooses you,” he said. “If you are interested and you want this job, I’m not interested in voting for someone like that. I was chosen by the people.
“I don’t have an original idea in my head, so to speak. I’m just repeating what I’ve heard from the citizens of Hawaii,” Davis continued.
Two-term Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann is now running for governor as a member of the Hawaii Independent Party.
“I’ve always been an independent,” he said,” and I believe I appeal to where a great number of people are. In the general election, people tend to come out in bigger numbers — a hundred thousand voters, and also you have independent thinking Democrats and independent thinking Republicans, who don’t always vote a straight ticket.”
Democratic candidate David Ige has been criticized for not taking part in more forums and debates. He did not participate in the first forum hosted by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii at the Pacific Club on Aug. 22 due to an initial concern over the possibility of taking candidate comments out of context in an edited video version of the forum.
When asked how he felt about his appearance at Tuesday’s forum, Ige said “I thought it went well.”
James “Duke” Aiona is a familiar face on the political scene, having served two terms as lieutenant governor with Linda Lingle.
“I learned everything that you need to know in regard to being the governor of the state of Hawaii,” he said. “That’s the difference between myself, Mufi Hannemann, David Ige and Jeff Davis, that experience, and that is priceless. That is something that is intangible.”
Political analyst and Hawaii Pacific University professor John Hart called Tuesday’s forum “an exhibition game” with solid performances by all the candidates. “I think all the candidates got their points across. I think each camp will have something positive to say about their candidate performance and be justified in saying so,” he said.
Hart adds that having a Libertarian and a candidate from the Hawaii Independent Party could play out like wild cards in the general election.
“The challenge on this debate for this campaign might be donor fatigue,” he said. “A lot of people gave to Neil (Abercrombie) thinking that they were done. They’d given to the general. Now, Ige is back saying you need to give a second time. Mufi is around asking for money. Other candidates are asking for money. How much more money are people going to give? The less money that is given, the more important forums like these are.”
To help voters make a decision, KHON2 will be presenting a gubernatorial debate, sponsored by AARP. The debate will take place Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. on KHON2 and KHON2.com.
Each candidate had different ideas to eliminate government waste while improving services.
Hannemann: People have always wanted more services, but don’t want to pay for it. I understand that. That’s why you need someone who has had experience in dealing with a budget to be able to demonstrate that people’s desires and needs will be met and resolved. I would assemble a team of non-partisan team of cabinet officials, like I did at the city, and do an audit. I did that as your mayor. That’s where we were able to identify what we needed to do to streamline government. We identified where the waste was taking place and the opportunities to maximize, whether it’s federal grants or state grants that come to the city. I believe that’s the best way to do it, with openness and transparency, and that’s what’s needed at the state level. Look at the Dept. of Taxation. It’s very important in my mind to ensure that that process is simplified, that we are collecting as much as we can, and that those monies go to specific purposes that we say we’re collecting those taxes for. I don’t regard public taxpayer dollars as a personal piggybank. It’s your money and we need to be accountable for it.
Ige: I’ve been a big proponent of use of technology — investing in technology to allow government to provide enhanced services in a more cost-efficient way. I’ve learned growing up it’s really (about) leading by example, and as chief technology officer at the State Senate, I led our efforts to take the Senate completely paperless, and it was really focused on the notion of re-engineering the entire legislative process to make the best use of technology, to become the most efficient that we could. I believe that making these investments throughout state government will allow us to deliver better, more improved services, than we can without it. As chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, we’ve appropriated more than $200 million in core infrastructure, IT investments that we will see significant improvements in the efficiency of state government as we move forward. It is really about managing your tax dollars better, but most importantly, $60 million of that was invested in modernization of the tax system. That system will allow us to collect more taxes that are already owed, so we can avoid future increases.
Davis: We’ve become a very wasteful government. You’ve heard the list of shame: cost of living, cost of housing, cost of purchase, cost of shipping, etc. The previous administrations have brought us to this point. Solutions come from a new day, a new idea. Solutions don’t come from battling the same ping-pong ball back and forth. Let’s use a calculator and take $16 billion a year — again, tourism on a good year, $12 billion and a gamble at that — $16 billion leaves our shores to purchase food. In 1930, Kauai grows 90 percent of its food. Today, in 2014, we import 92 percent of our food. If we cannot address the elephant in the room, which is a $16 billion bleed for food, let’s take another $6 billion for oil for energy in an archaic manner, juggle the budget and save money at the legislature, reassign our lunch money — $24 billion for food and energy, that’s where our solution lies. You cannot run a business that spends more money than it generates.
Aiona: It begins with transparency. Transparency begins with me (as) the governor of the state of Hawaii. If I’m transparent, if I’m open, if I dictate, if I show by example, if I supervise, then I think it will be transparent in regards to what we’re spending, in regards to the contracts we have out there, the leases and everything else that requires the spending of time, money and goods and services that we as a government put our monies to. So it really begins with me and how I lead the government. Transparency is something all of us understand. I don’t think it will take much direction to let the department heads and everyone below them to know that this is where we’re going to go. One example is with the Dept. of Education, which probably has the biggest budget next to the Dept. of Health and Dept. of Human Services in regards to state funds. I said it in 2010, and I’ll say it again today, the first thing I’ll do is to have an audit, both financial and management. I think all of you are aware of the lawsuit filed last week by a procurement officer with the Dept. of Education in regard to fraud. She was fired as a whistle blower because she revealed the fraud and waste, and according to that complaint, that was the tip of the iceberg.