POSTED: 6:33 p.m. HST, May 18, 2012
The race for Honolulu mayor has drawn U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye into a verbal confrontation with former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who said the senator is "out of touch" on the issue of the city's planned $5.27 billion rail transit project.
Cayetano says his op-
ponents were fawning
over the senator
Inouye, who is in Las Vegas attending to business with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a statement Thursday through a spokesman.
"I was deeply offended by the statements and negative tactics attributed to Gov. Cayetano," Inouye said. "The race for Honolulu mayor should be about the issues facing our city, and in these serious times there is no need for personal attacks."
Cayetano made his remark Wednesday night in the first debate with other candidates, Mayor Peter Carlisle and former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell.
Discussing whether Inouye could secure $1.55 billion in federal money for the project, Cayetano spoke of how he reached out to Inouye's office seeking a face-to-face meeting but never received a response.
"Sen. Inouye is up at the 30,000-foot level dealing with national and international affairs," Cayetano said. "The senator should take time to go down to McDonald's and talk to the retirees who go there to eat breakfast because it's cheap.
"He's out of touch, as far as I'm concerned. I respect Sen. Inouye — he's done a lot for our country and for our state — but we shouldn't defer to him."
Cayetano said Thursday he was "perplexed" by Inouye's reaction.
"When it comes to the rail issue, basically, he's not informed, and I don't know what's so offensive about that," Cayetano said. "So we disagree on something."
Cayetano contends the rail system is more likely to cost about $7 billion and that the city will have to raise taxes or shortchange core services to make up the difference. Inouye has said the only thing that can stop the project is "World War III."
Carlisle and Caldwell both defended Inouye on Wednesday and put their full faith in his ability to get the funding. Both said they did not give credence to Cayetano's "hypothetical" scenario of funds running out.
"The reason I brought it up was because the other two candidates, Caldwell and Carlisle, were fawning over him," Cayetano said. "They were saying all these things about how he's guaranteeing he's going to get this and that, and my comments were in response to what they were saying."
Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party, said he did not see the debate, but he understands the difference of opinion that Cayetano has with Inouye on rail.
"I know he has a great deal of respect for Sen. Inouye," Carpenter said, "but he's entitled to his opinion and I'm sure he'll continue to expound on that which he feels is maybe on a different course."