VIDEO: Leading democratic gubernatorial candidates exchange words in Maui town hall meeting
By Wendy Osher
The leading democratic candidates in the gubernatorial election squared off on Maui in a town hall meeting held tonight at the Iao Theatre in Wailuku. Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann spent an hour answering questions posed by the audience on issues including Civil Unions, Energy Independence, the Economy, Native Hawaiian Issues, the Superferry and Gambling.
When asked if they would support a statewide lottery to generate revenues for education, both expressed opposition, but Hannemann challenged Abercrombie accusing him of changing his answer in less than a month. Hannemann said his own position of opposition has remained consistent from the beginning. Abercrombie responded to the question saying, “No. I don’t support a state-wide lottery,” but further explained that while not necessarily opposed to lotteries, “Hawaii does not have the economic base to support a state-wide lottery.”
The two also spared over the Supperferry and the possibility of its return. Citing his familiarity with the maritime industry, Abercrombie said that it would be very difficult and time intensive to get the Superferry out of bankruptcy and questioned if time and efforts might be better spent in another direction, focusing on economic recovery. Hannemann referenced the benefits that the service provided to the kupuna and small businesses, but said it has to be done right, “with the blessing and support of the community.” He compared the controversy to that of the Rail Transit project he supports and the importance of community based planning.
On the topic of rail transit, Hannemann said, “the longer we delay, the more we’ll have to pay.” In recent weeks, rail supporters urged the governor to sign the project EIS, arguing that federal funds could be jeopardized if there was a delay. Abercrombie expressed concern over the impact of the project on neighbor islanders calling it an “Oahu project,” not a “state project.”
When asked about his plans to cover expenses incurred for proposed projects, Abercrombie said, “reorientation of government will not necessarily cost more.” He said cost rises precipitously because of lack of prevention, and suggested support of programs like Healthy Start that offers prenatal and post pardom care. Hannemann said that while Abercrombie’s thoughts are well intentioned, the money has to come from somewhere and challenged his opponent to put a specific dollar amount on his vision of a “new day in Hawaii.”
Other topics covered included civil unions, the physician shortage, native Hawaiian issues, and general excise taxes. The event was the final public pairing of the two for Maui before Saturday’s Primary Election. Live results will be broadcast on UHMC Channel 55, on the radio at KNUI AM 900, and online here at MauiNOW.com.