[9/14/10] Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie has criticized a two-page newspaper advertisement that he said leaves the false impression that his opponent in the Democratic primary for governor, former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, is endorsed by U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka.
The Hannemann ad, which ran in the Star-Advertiser on Sunday, includes testimonials about Hannemann from the two senators and several other Hawaii leaders. Inouye, who urged Hannemann to run, has said he is officially neutral in the primary. Akaka is also neutral.
"In today's newspaper, Mufi Hannemann ran an ad that creates the false impression that Sen. Inouye and Sen. Akaka have endorsed him for governor. Both senators have said they are remaining neutral in the Democratic primary," Abercrombie said in a statement on Sunday. "It's yet another political game meant to confuse voters. In six days, the people of Hawaii will have an opportunity to reject politics-as-usual when they cast their ballots. I am confident that the people will move Hawaii in a new direction."
[9/12/10] As much as Saturday's Democratic primary may hinge on where the candidates stand on specific hot-button issues, it is also likely to reflect the degree to which former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie have been able to reconcile seemingly polar aspects of their public personas.
While Hannemann's supporters praise his ability to get things done, detractors claim that his record is sullied by his penchant for bullying opponents. Part of Hannemann's challenge this election season has been to convince voters that his leadership style is more about compromising and building consensus than steamrolling opposition.
For Abercrombie, who burst on the political scene as an anti-war crusader, the challenge has been to sell voters on the idea that he can still be "an agent of change" despite spending much of his 40-year career as a cog in the state's Democratic establishment.
[9/9/10] Hannemann: visionary leader / Hannemann: the collaborator
[9/8/10] Hannemann used hit-and-run tactics (David Shapiro)
[9/7/10] Mufi looks like you (Lee Cataluna)
Former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann clashed last night in the last televised debate before the Democratic primary for governor, a substantive and mostly positive encounter that forced both candidates to defend their records.
The candidates used the opportunity of a statewide audience to perfect their campaign themes: Abercrombie as an agent of change who will stand up for people who have no one to stand up for them, Hannemann as a chief executive and a collaborator who can get things done.
The most spirited and revealing exchanges, as in previous debates and forums, came when the candidates were able to question each other.
Abercrombie challenged the former mayor to explain how Honolulu allowed a property reclassification from residential to commercial-industrial that has led to substantially higher property tax bills for about 250 residents.
Hannemann explained that it was the city's real property assessment division that reclassified the properties for uniformity and said it was irresponsible for Abercrombie to suggest that the mayor or City Council had an influence. Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell and some Council members have proposed measures to help the residents involved.
Hannemann, referring to Abercrombie's lack of executive experience, said the former congressman did not understand how a budget is constructed.
"Once again, it's somebody else's fault," Abercrombie shot back. "And now somebody else has to fix it."
Hannemann questioned how Abercrombie, given the state's budget difficulties, would pay for some of the expanded government programs included in his "A New Day in Hawaii" plan, including a state Department of Early Childhood and a Hawaii Energy Authority.
"It's going to take somebody who understands how you actually do budgeting," Abercrombie said, adding that it is a matter of setting priorities, not about new spending.
Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's campaign for governor has mailed out a comparison brochure to voters statewide that contains references to where Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie were born, the names of their wives, and the fact that Abercrombie once won first place in the Lahaina Whaling Days beard contest.
Hannemann's campaign said all of the information in the "Compare and Decide" brochure is factual. But Abercrombie, Hannemann's opponent in the Democratic primary, said it is an example of negative campaigning.
"Our opponent continues to quickly dismiss any unflattering fact about his record as negative campaigning, yet he does not contest the accuracy of those facts," Carolyn Tanaka, a spokeswoman for the Hannemann campaign, said in a statement. "And he is doing it again."
Abercrombie, in a statement, said the brochure "is not what a governor does."
"He's asking you to compare the fact that he was born in Hawaii and I was born on the mainland," he said. "That he went to Harvard, and I went to the University of Hawaii. He dismisses my 35 years of service to the people of Hawaii. He even asks you to compare our wives and decide. Compare and decide? What's the message here?"
Neal Milner, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, said the Hannemann brochure does not contain any distinctions on public policy issues and instead portrays Abercrombie as an outsider with an insignificant record.
"This all becomes about character and leadership," Milner said.
Several Democrats, speaking privately because they did not want to appear to be taking sides in the primary, thought Hannemann was again trying to suggest Abercrombie is an outsider by noting he was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and that he and his wife are haole. In July, Hannemann, who was born in Honolulu and is of Samoan and German descent, told the Hawaii Carpenters Union that carpenters deserved a candidate they could relate to and said, "I look like you. You look like me."
The reference in the brochure to the Lahaina Whaling Days beard contest, some said, was gratuitous and belittled the record of someone who served in Congress for two decades.
Other Democrats, however, did not believe the brochure crossed the line into negative campaigning when taken as a whole. Biographical references are included in many news media profiles of the candidates, some said, and Abercrombie himself once listed the beard contest in an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 1970.
"It was hardball but not completely below the belt," one Democrat said.
Two eminently qualified candidates are front-runners in the race to become the Democratic nominee for the governor's job. The victor there will move on to a contentious general election -- and whoever ultimately wins that race will take over at a time when Hawaii must chart a path out of the current economic malaise and toward a future that can sustain its citizens.
There's so much serious talk that should be happening now, a month from voting day, that it's disappointing to see the race already starting to deteriorate. The downward spiral accelerated with the mailing of a "Compare and Decide" flier by the Mufi Hannemann campaign.
The format, a side-by-side comparison of the former mayor with former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, is standard campaign fodder. But the content of this one veered off into foolishness.
A few examples:
» The reference to the candidates' wives -- including Mrs. Hannemann's Japanese maiden name to underscore her ethnicity -- was irrelevant at best and offensive at worst.
» While Hannemann's cum-laude Harvard degree does him credit, was it really necessary to use that as an opportunity to smack down Abercrombie as a University of Hawaii graduate?
Those in the know already realize Abercrombie earned the more advanced degrees, not acknowledged in the brochure, and can dismiss this as a weak critique. But even the casual bystander has to wonder why any candidate would by inference insult the state university, alma mater for many of the voters Hannemann hopes to impress.
» The citation of the embezzlement conviction for an Abercrombie staffer is entirely lacking in context, including the involvement of his other aides in her prosecution.
» Listing Abercrombie's award in a Lahaina beard contest from the 1960s as his only recognition is simply sophomoric.
The importance of this race, at this juncture of the state's history, cannot be overstated. Hannemann and Abercrombie have differences in leadership style that can be legitimately contrasted, and have different approaches to solving the state's problems that should be debated.
But if this flier is a harbinger of what's still to come as the campaign heat rises, the voters have a reason to worry.
Your story on the Mufi Hannemann campaign brochure ("Hannemann spins facts to run down Abercrombie," Star-Advertiser, Aug. 17) did a good job in capturing the offensive aspects and fallacies of this particular advertising.
As one of 161,000 graduates of the University of Hawaii, I was particularly offended that his brochure implies that Neil Abercrombie's UH education is inferior to Hannemann's Harvard education when it comes to equipping someone for political office.
I would remind the former mayor that both U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and the late former U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink attended UH. They didn't do too badly. On the other hand, George W. Bush went to Yale and Harvard Business School. Draw your own conclusions.
Neil Abercrombie has received numerous awards. One of the most prestigious was the Gandhi King Ikeda Peace Award for community building and upholding world peace from Morehouse College. Much more than a "best beard" award.
Abercrombie's refusal to return Hannemann's use of belittling innuendoes exemplifies Abercrombie's understanding that those are examples of passive violence and unbefitting a governor.
Ed Case is out of the 2010 election after withdrawing from the 1st Congressional District race, but he's still making his presence felt by calling out candidates who play the race and "local" cards in Hawaii elections.
In a recent commentary in the Star-Advertiser, Case said there's a fine line between candidates telling their personal stories and "purposefully playing to prejudices and divisions, tearing rather than strengthening our social fabric. Then it becomes about the candidate's character and capability to unite and lead a diverse society."
He specifically cited Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann's pitch to the Carpenters Union that "when I look in the audience, I look like you, you look like me ... and even for our Caucasian brothers in the audience, I'm local to the max."
And mayoral candidate Kirk Caldwell's radio ad in which he proclaimed, "I may not look it, but I'm a local boy -- born in Waipahu, grew up in Hilo."
Case noted that both are running against haole opponents who weren't born here.
"We have tolerated subtle racism and not-so-subtle localism in Hawaii politics for a long time now," he said. "It fosters the politics of division and exclusion (think the bumper sticker 'Locals Only' on the door of government)."
Case speaks from experience; he's taken hits in his own campaigns about his "localness" even though he was born and raised in Hawaii and his family goes back four generations.
It's Hawaii's dirty little double standard. Imagine the hue and cry if a haole candidate made a statement such as Hannemann's to a primarily white audience -- or if President Barack Obama said it to a black audience.
But thinly veiled haole-bashing remains an accepted part of Hawaii's political culture, and blowing the whistle on it is just seen as further evidence of your lack of "localness."
I believe the core intent of Mufi Hannemann's "Compare and Decide" brochure is to inform the public, not fear monger or personally to ruin his competitor. Yes, the information about Neil Abercrombie highlights his negative attributes; but this reflection results from his own actions, not a spin by the Hannemann campaign. The truth is that Abercrombie was ranked last in overall legislative performance by Congress.org (August 2008) for his congressional class.
The truth is Abercrombie had one of the poorest voting records for the 111th Congress.
The brochure offered information easily found on the Internet, but in a condensed format. It left the content open to interpretation, which can be spun by individuals based on their own assumptions.
How often does a piece of snail mail go viral?
The first real bit of traction in the governor's race is Mufi Hannemann's Friday the 13th attack on Democratic opponent Neil Abercrombie. Flashing Hannemann's trademark Iolani colors, red and black, the former mayor's mailer asked all registered voters to "compare and decide."
Compare their wives, compare their high schools and even compare what kind of awards they win.
It lit up the campaign.
Hannemann seemed to be saying his birthplace, his wife's Japanese surname, his Harvard undergraduate degree and his Honolulu Magazine ranking as "Best Public Official" were the only reasons voters needed to pick him.
"It doesn't make you feel good if you think this is what it takes to win us over," says one long-time local Democrat.
Local-boy politics is not exclusive to Hawaii elections, but folks in Hawaii can understand how dangerous it is to divide people by ancestry and origin.
A former executive in the administrations of Govs. John Waihee and George Ariyoshi says the glossy, heavy-stock mailer was raising the ire of voters all over town.
"There were two older folks in front of me at McDonald's talking about it. One was saying 'What's wrong with UH? It was good enough for us.' And the other says, 'Why does he always have to brag?'" my friend reported.
The Republicans seized on it.
Dylan Nonaka, GOP executive director, went on television to say, "Mufi Hannemann has made a career of personally attacking and tearing down his opponents."
I got Mufi Hannemann's campaign flyer in the mail. He makes comparisons between his biography and Neil Abercrombie's.
I'm wondering what the education comparison is supposed to indicate?
Does the comparison suggest that a Harvard grad is superior to a University of Hawaii at Manoa grad and, therefore, better suited to be my governor? I hope that's not the case; Hawaii does not need an East Coast elitist mentality in Washington Place.
Especially for a candidate running on a "locals" platform.
[8/22/10] Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case yesterday endorsed former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie in the Democratic primary for governor, concluding that Abercrombie is independent in thought and action and passionate about making government work for all.
In an e-mail to his supporters, Case said he once saw former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Abercrombie's opponent, as a future leader for the state but now views him "as the most dangerous politician in a generation."
"He is the product and clear choice of a political machine that must end," Case wrote of the former mayor. "While professing unity, he's practiced the politics of division, exploiting rather than healing differences of race, origin and economic status. He has governed by fear and intimidation, rewarding compliance and punishing disagreement.
"His policy decisions have too often focused on short-term avoidance at the expense of long-term solutions. All spin aside, none of that would serve us well as our governor."
Case acknowledged that endorsing Abercrombie may be a surprise to some of his supporters, since Abercrombie denounced Case for his primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, in 2006.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mufi Hannemann yesterday slammed scathing criticism from former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who endorsed Hannemann's chief rival, Neil Abercrombie, over the weekend.
The exchange of statements from the three high-profile Hawaii Democrats turned up the temperature on an already sizzling contest for the party's Sept. 18 gubernatorial primary between Hannemann and Abercrombie.
It came three days after Abercrombie, a former Hawaii congressman, and Hannemann, a former Honolulu mayor, met in a barb-filled debate hosted by KHON-TV, and the day after a poll showed Abercrombie holding a tiny lead.
In e-mails sent Saturday, Case endorsed Abercrombie as an effective advocate for the state during Abercrombie's nearly 20 years in Congress, and an independent thinker who wants government to work. Case said his e-mail list, tallied over the last decade, numbers in the tens of thousands.
"In experience, character, perspective and commitment, he would serve us well as our governor," wrote Case, who in May dropped out of next month's Democratic primary for Hawaii's 1st Congressional District seat.
Case went further, calling Hannemann the "most dangerous politician in a generation." He accused Hannemann of being the "clear choice of a political machine that must end," though Case did not elaborate on the allegation.
"While professing unity, he's practiced the politics of division, exploiting rather than healing differences of race, origin and economic status," Case added, referring in part to a much-criticized flier Hannemann's campaign mailed recently and for which Hannemann apologized at the top of Friday's debate.
Case's remarks generated a stern response from Hannemann spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka.
"This is negative campaigning at its worst," she said. "Case's hateful e-mail assassinates the character of Mufi Hannemann with accusations that are completely devoid of any facts."
Abercrombie, she added, "has consistently accused us of negative campaigning, yet he accepts the endorsement and apparently condones the negative messages being sent out by Ed Case."
Asked for a response, Case said in a statement, "Hannemann's character to lead is a central issue because we want leaders we can trust; that's fair game in any campaign."
Abercrombie has lauded Case's endorsement. Yesterday he dismissed Hannemann's complaints, saying in a statement, "Ed Case is an independent person and free to speak his mind."
Ed Case views Mufi Hannemann "as the most dangerous politician in a generation." Disturbingly, Case never backs up his views with any facts or evidence of truth.
Case fails to see the damage he could have done, and has done, to Hawaii's Democratic Party by his past two failed attempts for elected office.
First he tried to knock off our beloved and distinguished U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka. He then gave the Republican Party a coveted congressional seat, which Neil Abercrombie vacated during a critical time for President Obama.
Who is really the most dangerous politician in a generation to Hawaii's Democratic Party?
Though I have not been a fan of Ed Case, I must speak up for him now.
Saying what you believe, and what you feel to be very important for our community, is the duty of all of us. I'm not saying we should "talk stink" -- far from it. But Case expressed what lots of us feel after observing Mufi Hannemann for decades. He does not work productively with other viewpoints to reach agreement, but imposes his own "wiser" choices. It is my observation that he never addresses different viewpoints, except to belittle and marginalize them.
[8/26/10] Like a disapproving uncle, Hawaii's senior Democrat on Tuesday urged the two leading candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to stop issuing negative comments about each other and instead concentrate on policy differences.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, who is seeking a ninth six-year term in November, released a statement saying the gubernatorial campaigns of both former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann had issued remarks "that walk a very fine line between fair and foul."
"We're all better than that," the 85-year-old Inouye added.
The senator also chided former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who released a statement Saturday endorsing Abercrombie and criticizing Hannemann as the "most dangerous politician in a generation."
In a separate e-mail, Case on Monday endorsed former Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's campaign for Honolulu mayor while rebuking one of Carlisle's rivals, acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
"Unfortunately," Inouye said without naming Case, "nastiness is coming from not only within the campaigns.
"It is one thing to endorse a candidate," the senator added. "It is quite another to tear down and gut the opposition by engaging in character assassination. That has no place in Hawaii."
The senator ended his statement by saying, "Let's keep it clean."