Schatz, Hanabusa squaring off in Big Island forum

You’ve seen their campaign ads, now see them in person.

On July 2, U.S. Senate candidates Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa will meet in the first — and likely only — Big Island forum for the highly watched race. The 90-minute event starts at 6:30 p.m. at Sangha Hall, 424 Kilauea Ave. in Hilo.

The two Democrats will respond to questions from moderator Sherry Bracken, Hawaii Public Radio reporter. She is also the public affairs director for Mahalo Broadcasting and host of Island Issues for LAVA 105.3 FM and KKOA 107.7 FM.

“It’s our opportunity to let the candidates know that Hawaii Island cares who gets into the U.S. Senate,” Bracken said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz to the Senate position following the death of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye in 2012.

This is Schatz’s first election since, and Hanabusa is his biggest challenger.

They will face each other in the Aug. 9 primary. Brian Evans of Keaau is the other Democrat in the race.

Admission is free. While questions will not be taken from the audience at the forum, questions can be submitted ahead of time to admin@hicc.biz.

Sponsoring organizations include the Hawaii Island Portuguese and Japanese chamber of commerce organizations, Hawaii Island Realtors, Hawaii Island Contractors Association and Kanoelehua Industrial Area Association.

The forum will be broadcast live on LAVA and online at hawaii247.com.

Food and drinks will be sold as a benefit for Friends of Hilo High Baseball.

Campaign signs are not allowed.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.