Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Election 2002

Parties scrap over candidates’
debate date books

Claiming conflicts, Hirono stands
to miss a building-trades forum

By Richard Borreca

Republicans and Democrats accused the other yesterday of being hypocritical on the issue of debates in the race for governor.

Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono, the Democratic nominee, defended her decision not to debate Linda Lingle, the Republican candidate, this week, saying she had a prior commitment for a private meeting with about 70 people.

Lingle and Hirono had been scheduled to appear before a Building Industry Association meeting that would have included the general contractors, architects, builders and concrete products representatives, but Hirono's campaign says it did not know about it.

"We will set a place for Mazie, if she wants to come, but we will continue with the same format," said Karen Nakamura, BIA executive vice president.

Hirono blasted Lingle during a news conference yesterday, saying Lingle was invited to several forums during the primary election but did not show up. "Prior to the primary, there were a number of forums that Linda was supposed to be at, and I appeared at every one of them and she didn't," Hirono said. "For her to come out now and start talking about forums and appearances, I think, is completely hypocritical of her."

In response, Micah Kane, GOP chairman, said Hirono was the one who was hypocritical because she had refused a second televised debate with her Democratic opponents before the primary election.

"Mazie wasn't running against Linda in the primary. Now it is a Linda Lingle-Mazie Hirono campaign," Kane said.

"She is clearly not prepared. That is why she is pulling out. The bottom line is, she is afraid to let the public see her and Linda side by side," Kane said.

Lingle was not available for comment. But her campaign issued a release this morning stating that the former Maui mayor plans to attend 24 forums and candidate debates before the Nov. 5 general election.

The first time the two candidates are scheduled to appear together is next Tuesday at an American Association of Retired Persons meeting.

Nakamura said the BIA offered the debate to both parties and all the candidates. She said both Democratic and Republican party officials agreed to the debate and that a woman handling Hirono's scheduling also agreed.

"We learned that the person who confirmed Mazie's appearance had been with her when she was running for mayor and has since been replaced," Nakamura said.

"The person handling the scheduling now said she started with the campaign three weeks ago and said that anything before she came on board was a moot point," Nakamura said.

A spokeswoman for Hirono's campaign, Barbara Tanabe, said the BIA debate request had been sent through the Democratic Party to the Democrat's coordinated campaign, but the message never got to Hirono in time.

"We didn't get the letter until Sept. 17th because it was misdirected. No one at the Hirono campaign confirmed it," Tanabe said.

Nakamura, meanwhile, wonders if Hirono is paying enough attention to the construction industry. "What does this say to our industry, that we aren't important?" Nakamura said.

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