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."
Inouye’s comments were the latest in a string of remarks stemming from a flyer that Hannemann’s campaign sent voters recently.
The mailer attempted to compare the birthplaces, spouse names, and business and executive experience of the two Democrats. It has been criticized for belittling Abercrombie’s political and professional history, and for obliquely referring to the ethnicity of the candidate’s wives.
Abercrombie lambasted the flyer, and on Friday, Inouye and Republican Gov. Linda Lingle were critical too. Hannemann apologized for it at the top of a debate between he and Abercrombie Friday evening.
In a statement Tuesday, Hannemann spokeswoman Carolyn Tanaka said, "We appreciate the wise words of our senior senator and agree fully with him. Our campaign looks forward to continuing to focus on the issues that are important to the people of our state."
Laurie Au, an Abercrombie aide, said the campaign agrees with Inouye that Hannemann’s flyer was inappropriate.
"We have made it a point to focus our campaign around issues of leadership and policy, and we do not engage in personal attacks," she said in a statement. Case’s comments about Hannemann were made "with no input or coordination with our campaign," she added.
Case did not respond to a request for comment.