CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hanalei Aipoalani answered a question during a political speed dating session held at McCoy Pavilion last night.
Democrats put on best face for novel political forum
Like eager singles hoping to meet a potential spouse, nine of the 10 Democrats vying for the 2nd Congressional District seat in the U.S. House met the public last night in a unique political forum.
Organizers billed it as "political speed dating" -- an opportunity to bring most of the candidates together at a single forum while giving the public a chance to meet them on a more personal level.
2nd District seat for the U.S. House
Democrats: Hanalei Y. Aipoalani, Nestor R. Garcia, Colleen W. Hanabusa, Clayton Hee, Mazie K. Hirono, Gary L. Hooser, Matt Matsunaga, Ron Menor, Brian Schatz, Joe Zuiker
Republicans: Bob Hogue, Quentin K. Kawananakoa*
Nonpartisan: Robert K. Wilcox IV
State Democratic Party Chairman Mike McCartney applauded the event for giving candidates a chance to talk "with" voters instead of "at" them.
"If we had a traditional candidate forum, I think we would've heard a lot of speeches tonight," he said. "Instead, what you're hearing is people having conversations with each other in small groups.
"I think it's going to give everybody a flavor for deciding who is the best person to represent us in the 2nd Congressional."
The event was patterned after matchmaking events where groups of singles meet each other one-on-one for short amounts of time over the course of an evening.
Although the district represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands, last night's event was held at McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana Park and attracted about 80 people.
The audience was divided into seven groups with each getting to spend time with an individual candidate. After nine minutes the candidates rotated until each had met with all of the individual audience groups. Two candidates got a chance to sit out each round.
Organizers said the object was to talk with the candidates.
"They could spend eight minutes giving a speech, but that would defeat the purpose," said Rachel Orange, co-chairwoman of Progressive Democrats of Hawaii, which sponsored the event along with the Hawaii chapter of Americans for Democratic Action.
The mostly partisan audience asked questions on issues ranging from Social Security and health care to campaign financing and economic development.
Two of the more common questions focused on the war in Iraq and President Bush's use of executive authority.
When asked point blank whether Bush should be impeached, Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe) was diplomatic. "I think that there's grounds to discuss it," Hee said.
Former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono criticized the lack of checks and balances between the White House and the Republican Congress.
Candidates also used the opportunity to tout their experiences and introduce themselves.
For an unknown candidate like Hanalei Aipoalani, a former biotech company executive from Nanakuli, the "speed dating" format provided a "level playing field" for all candidates.
City Councilman Nestor Garcia agreed.
"You really don't have that opportunity to come up with the usual pat speech," he said. "It's just like what this format is derived out of: You have the opportunity to size up a person real quick, and you figure out whether or not you want to have a relationship.
"In this case you're not asking for a date; you're asking for a vote."
Of the 10 Democrats running for the 2nd Congressional seat, only attorney Joe Zuiker was unable to attend, because of a prior commitment.
Friday, July 28, 2006
» Bob Hogue and Quentin K. Kawananakoa are the two Republican candidates for the 2nd District seat for the U.S. House. A list on Page A7 in the morning edition yesterday incorrectly included several other people who indicated an interest in running as Republicans but who did not file to run by Tuesday's deadline.