Hawaii Candidates for Governor Hold Debate in a Dole Cannery Ballroom

I just got back to the office from a gubernatorial candidate debate at the Dole Cannery Iweli Ballroom. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann squared off in a luncheon debate sponsored by the Hawaii Publishers Association.

The room was fairly full, with, of course members of the media, as well as supporters of both candidates and political junkies. It appeared that Hannemann packed a fuller house than Abercrombie with several of his supporters wearing red Mufi shirts and holding signs.

Steve Petranik, the editor of Hawaii Business, our sister publication, moderated the debate after a buffet lunch. 

The candidates each started out with 10 minutes worth of opening remarks and then took turns responding first to questions, taking no more than 90 seconds to answer. Audience members were also given the opportunity to write down questions on note cards for the candidates to answer.

As they say, it was politics as usual, with both politicians taking jabs at each other—although Hannemann did so a lot more.

My favorite part however, came about halfway through the debate. An audience member brought up the controversial civil unions legislation and asked, “If you become governor and a bill similar to HB 444 passed your desk, would you sign it or veto it?” You might recall, Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill last month, which would have allowed homosexual couples to enter into a civil union and given them more rights under the state law. 

It was Hannemann’s turn to answer first. He beat around the bush, starting off by saying that he would meet with folks on both sides of the issue before making his decision (as Lingle also did). He then brought up President Obama and echoed his stance by saying that he is against discrimination in our community. But he also believes that marriage should be between a man and woman. That, to me, is plain discrimination.

Then it was Abercrombie’s turn. His response was, “yes.” Yes, he would sign a civil unions bill.

It was refreshing to hear a politician actually answer a question. Not skirt the issue, or answer ambiguously, but a straightforward “Yes, I support this,” or “No, I don’t support this.” It would be nice to see more of that in the upcoming debates.

Watch a replay of the debate on Olelo channel 54 at 7 p.m. tonight.