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Debates heat up election season


HONOLULU — Here’s a look at the week’s most interesting and important developments in Hawaii’s election campaigns:

Flurry of debates

Hawaii saw three televised debates in the state’s top three races, including two back-to-back Thursday night.

State Sen. David Ige showed a more aggressive side in a Democratic primary debate for governor, interrupting Gov. Neil Abercrombie as they argued about a failed proposal to enroll more children in preschool.

Abercrombie asked Ige how he could deny 17,000 children the opportunity for preschool education.

“It does cost $125 million, and there was no plan to fund it,” Ige said to Abercrombie. “I’m criticizing your plan because your plan was not complete.”

They also sparred over the economy, which Abercrombie has repeatedly claimed responsibility for improving.

“The economy is flattening,” Ige said. “The revenues have dropped, and that is a fact.”

Abercrombie also defended his decision to appoint U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz to the Senate, despite the late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s request that he appoint U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him. Hanabusa and Schatz are now engaged in a primary race for the Democratic nomination for the seat.

“Hawaii is in very good hands with Sen. Schatz, and he’ll have the opportunity to build the same kind of seniority and influence in the United States Senate that Hawaii has enjoyed for the past half century.”

Ige said voters have told him they were upset by that decision.

“I have, as I’ve campaigned across the state, heard from many, many people that they were disappointed that the governor did not follow through on Sen. Inouye’s last wish,” Ige said. “Many have said after so many years of dedicated service to the people of Hawaii, how can a simple request be ignored?”

In a debate between Democratic contenders for the U.S. House, Ikaika Anderson, who has Native Hawaiian ancestry, said he supports a government-to-government relationship between Native Hawaiians and the federal government, a proposal that has drawn anger from Hawaiians in recent public meetings throughout the state.

“The U.S. is not going to withdraw from Hawaii,” Anderson said. “The Kingdom is not going to be restored.”

On Monday night, Hanabusa repeatedly criticized Schatz, asserting that she’s accomplished more in just as much time and that she’s better at the nitty-gritty of policy.

Kim endorsements

State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim was endorsed by the United Public Workers Union and Emily’s List in her race for the House seat being vacated by Hanabusa. The union represents 13,000 civil service workers throughout Hawaii, including cafeteria workers, electricians, nurses and carpenters. Emily’s List supports women who run for federal office who are Democrats and pro-abortion rights.

Governor fundraising

On the Democratic side, Abercrombie’s campaign said it raised $883,000 from January through June, the current campaign reporting period. Abercrombie has raised $4.3 million to date and has $1.04 million cash on hand, campaign officials said. Ige raised nearly $243,000 during the same period, according to the campaign, and nearly $322,000 to date.

Republican James “Duke” Aiona raised more than $360,000 in the first six months of this year, campaign officials said.

Up next

On Tuesday, Aiona plans to lay out plans for reducing homelessness in Hawaii, saying it’s time to address an extreme shortage of affordable housing.