HAWAII ISLAND: As the political season heats up, candidates are finalizing their forum schedules… and it looks like Hawaii Island may be missing out when it comes to a U.S. Senate debate.
The Democratic opponent of Congresswoman Mazie Hirono in the senate primary – former Congressman Ed Case – has been critical of Hirono’s alleged refusal to debate him before the election.
On Thursday, Hirono’s campaign finally released a list of debates and candidate forums in which she will take part in advance of the State’s Primary Election. However, a prominent forum that is being organized by the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce is not on the list… in fact, there is no Big Island appearance on Hirono’s list.
According to Sherry Bracken – who serves as the moderator for the chamber’s forums and is involved in coordinating the events – the first formal invitation that was issued to Congresswoman Hirono and Congressman Case was on March 16. It offered Congresswoman Hirono the choice of any of three dates for the forums—July 9, July 16, or July 23.
From the article on Big Island News Center:
Congressman Case responded immediately and said he would be glad to participate on any of the dates. Hirono and her team never responded to the invitation. Hirono’s campaign team, Betsy Lin and Elisa Yadao, did send emails promising to respond. The Chamber’s team finally narrowed the date to July 16, as that is a recess day for the United States Congress, and offered Hirono’s team information about flights that night, after the forum, from Kona’s Keahole Airport to get her to Washington, D. C. in time for the next U. S. Congress session the night of Tuesday, July 17.
The chamber says it never heard back from Hirono, and the the first indication that Congresswoman had no plans to take part in the Kona-Kohala Chamber’s forum was a general email to all media issued on Thursday, April 19, and with none on Hawaii Island.
The BINC says the events are:
- A hosted joint forum by the Oahu County Democrats in advance of the Hawaii Democratic State Convention on May 25th
- The Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association on May 29th
- A debate hosted by the Maui AARP on June 12th
- A radio debate sponsored by Hawaii Public Radio on June 13th
- A televised candidate forum hosted by PBS Hawaii on June 14th
The Hirono camp says “These debates and forums are in addition to Congresswoman Hirono’s grassroots discussions and coffee hours with voters across Hawaii.”
Case called Hirono’s schedule an “insult to the voters of Hawaii”. From an Ed Case campaign media release:
Hirono’s schedule rejects invitations to four statewide televised debates hosted by Hawaii’s principal television and media outlets. It also rejects similar invitations from several statewide business, educational and community organizations, as well as pending invitations from other interested groups statewide.
“This schedule is shibai”, said Case. “In cherry picking just a few with the least possible exposure, they’re fooling nobody. This is plain and simple about avoiding any real statewide public discussion at all costs and is typical of what’s wrong with DC today.
“This is a critical election, and every Hawaii voter wants and deserves every opportunity to size us up side by side and make this decision for themselves. We want our candidates and public officials to discuss openly and directly with us how we’ll fix Washington, grow our economy and much more, not hide behind handlers and spin.
“Our next Senator must be able to provide strong effective leadership in the world’s greatest deliberative body, to stand and fight for us in DC, and to keep in touch with us back home. It’s tragic that my opponent is denying Hawaii’s voters the opportunity to judge for themselves who can best do the job.
“The campaign’s real slogan is: ‘No Debates; Just Watch My Commercials’. I hope voters see through the slick ads upcoming to what’s really going on.
When pressed for a specific response to the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce invitation, the Hirono campaign sent the following response via email to BINC:
“We believe we are providing voters ample opportunity to consider Congresswoman Hirono and former Congressman Case’s record as well as their vision for the people of Hawaii. We look forward to discussing issues of importance like creating local jobs, helping middle-class families during these challenging times, and providing quality educational opportunities for our keiki.”
UPDATE: On Friday, April 20, one of Hirono’s campaign staff, Betsy Lin, did speak on the phone with Sherry Bracken. She said they are delighted to offer a forum on a neighbor island (Maui), and believe this may be the first time a U. S. Senate forum has been held anywhere other than Oahu. She also said it was too soon to make a commitment about the Kona-Kohala Chamber’s planned October U. S. Senate forum, should Hirono win. Governor Linda Lingle’s team has already committed to take part in a Kona-Kohala Chamber Candidate Forum and face her Democratic challenger prior to the General Election.