Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Inouye's coyness promoting confusion

By Richard Borreca


Hawaii's iconic Democrat and senior senator, Daniel K. Inouye, has gone through the primary election doing an odd dance.

When not busy with the national budget, the future of the Internet or Afghanistan foreign policy, Inouye has been gently picking at the race for governor of Hawaii.

Like the cautious consumer mulling over a new car purchase, Inouye has been test-driving the campaign of Mufi Hannemann for nearly a year.

He's slipped into the driver's seat, checked the lights and brakes. The key is in the ignition, but Inouye can't seem to turn it until after the Saturday primary.

Last November then-Mayor Hannemann told supporters at a Waikiki fundraiser that Inouye wanted him in the race for governor.

"It is no secret, my friends, and I will say it tonight, that Sen. Inouye is encouraging us to seek the top seat in Hawaii," Hannemann said.

Later Inouye's campaign said the senator is "encouraging many people to run for office and urging healthy competition."

If it wasn't a full commitment to Hannemann, the Inouye request was more than the usual civic concern for a healthy election, especially for a Democrat who in past elections has urged candidates to avoid primary fights.

Inouye wasn't finished with his Hannemann due diligence.

In June he popped up at the opening of Hannemann's headquarters, the site of a former Honda car dealership. Inouye then toured the head-

quarters of Hannemann's opponent, former Congressman Neil Abercrombie.

"I think both candidates are men of good intentions, men of good sense," Inouye intoned after the meetings.

Inouye's evenhanded, fair-to-all-creatures-large-and-small attitude continued to this past Sunday, when Hannemann ran an ad featuring much of the state's economic and political muscle.

Inouye is in the ad, along with U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka, neighbor island mayors Billy Kenoi and Bernard Carvalho, business leaders (both Democrat and Republican) and Vicky Holt Takamine, a Hawaiian leader.

The advertising says it is "what people have to say about Mufi Hannemann's leadership as mayor."

But, he's not mayor anymore; he is running for governor.

Inouye and Akaka spokespeople say the comments are not an endorsement, just quotes from previous speeches.

The Hannemann campaign agreed, just quotes.

"It is just another political game meant to confuse voters," groused Abercrombie.

Abercrombie supporters say that if Inouye was serious about Hannemann, he should come back home, throw the campaign on his back and lug Hannemann over the finish line.

Or Inouye can continue with the test drive and hope there is enough gas in the tank.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at

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