He Said, She Said


Published:

Republican Sen. Fred Hemmings could have been a Sean Hannity for Hawai'i. Conservative talk-radio station KHNR offered him his own morning show, but Hemmings didn't want to fly solo. He insisted the station add a Democratic co-host to balance out the show.

"I didn't want it to be just me, ranting about political issues," he says. "I thought it would be better to have a Democrat to give another side."

KHNR brought on Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, a Democrat who is as outspoken a politician as her Republican co-host. The pair went on air in August with Equal Time, billing it as "the morning talk show of opposites." A few minutes into the show, listeners can see why.

Sens. Fred Hemmings and Donna Mercado Kim Photo: Jimmy Forrest

Kim and Hemmings clash on nearly every topic-from light rail (she fully supports it, he calls it a waste of taxpayer money) to why African Americans tend to vote Democrat (she says her party represents their needs, he angrily dismissed a black guest as a liberal). And while Hemmings does his best Hannity impersonation, Kim is no hard-hitting Alan Colmes. She plays good cop to his bad cop, always rational no matter how riled her co-host gets.

"Sometimes, it gets kind of hot on the show," Kim says. "If we fight, they love it. We had one guy call up and say, 'I don't care what you guys say, as long as you're fighting!'"

Topics ranging from substance abuse to gambling elicit almost nonstop calls to KHNR's switchboard. Equal Time's popularity convinced the station to stretch its original one-hour, four-day-a-week schedule to two hours, five days a week-a pace that Hemmings and Kim will keep up even as the 2005 legislative session starts this month.

But lest you despair of our local Democrats and Republicans ever getting along, take heart. In person, this pair is downright amicable-scribbling notes to each other during long-winded call-ins and cracking jokes during commercial breaks. They're just as entertaining off the air as they are on.

"We probably disagree about 60 percent of the time," Hemmings says. "We agree about 40 percent of the time, because she's a fiscal conservative. I think Donna and I have a good relationship-even though she's still the wicked witch from the north."

Kim rewards him with an eye roll and a reply, "And you're an ogre from the south."

This time, neither of them is really right. Both were born and raised in Honolulu, and Hemmings represents East and Windward O'ahu, while Kim's district covers Kalihi to 'Aiea.

Who knew politics could be this much fun?

Equal Time

Monday through Friday, 7 to 9 a.m. KHNR 97.5 FM
Formerly the frequency of KPOI, which moved to 105.9 FM


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