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Aiona levels negative campaigning charge

An inflammatory religious video is disseminated by the Abercrombie camp

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 9:09 p.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor, claimed yesterday that former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, his Democratic opponent, has engaged in negative campaigning by spreading a video that links him to an international evangelical network with controversial views about homosexuality.

The Abercrombie campaign's social media director posted links on Twitter to the video, which alleges that Aiona has misrepresented his role in Transformation Hawaii, the local chapter of the International Transformation Network.

Aiona was involved in several local events for the evangelical groups and with his wife attended an International Transformation Network convention in Argentina in 2006. In the video, produced by a mainland activist who documents the religious right's political activities, Aiona is shown telling a Hilo audience in 2008 that he is "part of a prayer evangelization program called Transformation Hawaii."

But Aiona told reporters in May, and repeated yesterday, that he is not a member of the evangelical groups. He said he participated in evangelical activities that were centered around prayer and consistent with his Catholic faith. Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, a Mormon and Abercrombie's rival in the Democratic primary for governor, also participated in Transformation Hawaii events, as did state Sen. Norman Sakamoto, a Christian who finished third in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

Aiona, during a news conference at his campaign headquarters, said yesterday the Abercrombie campaign is "spreading what I would call unconscionable, fabricated video attacking me and my personal faith.

"This politically motivated attack video takes quotes out of context, it splices videos together, and it manufactures patently false statements as they relate to a faith-based organization."

Aiona said Abercrombie accused Hannemann during the primary of using religion for division after Island Values, a Christian group with ties to the Hannemann campaign, issued a radio advertisement and flier describing Abercrombie as "unacceptable" to Christians because of his voting record in Congress and for not stating a religious affiliation in congressional biographies. Hannemann urged his supporters not to distribute the information from Island Values.

Abercrombie, asked about his faith after the Island Values ads, said he was a confirmed Episcopalian.

Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for the Abercrombie campaign, acknowledged that the video targeting Aiona was "re-broadcasted by members of the Abercrombie campaign."

"Voters have been expressing concern that Duke Aiona is mixing religion with politics in a way that may not be appropriate in Hawaii today," she said in a statement. "Our social media team, by sharing this information, did not engage in negative campaigning.

"Neil Abercrombie believes that politicians have to be careful when invoking religion. People of all faiths should feel like full participants in our democracy."

Transformation Hawaii -- now called Hawaii He'e Nalu -- and the International Transformation Network are evangelical groups that promote prayer and family values to confront social issues such as poverty, crime and substance abuse. But some in the International Transformation Network have claimed that homosexuality is demonic in nature and have been linked to evangelical politicians in Uganda who have supported oppressive anti-gay legislation.

Aiona, asked whether he would distance himself from Transformation Hawaii if he learned that the International Transformation Network was working with the Uganda government to persecute gays, called such anti-gay legislation "despicable."

"It's something that, obviously, I don't believe in, nor would I be a part of," he said.

Abercrombie's campaign, meanwhile, attacked a new brochure from the Republican Governors Association that repeats claims from a recent RGA television ad that said the former congressman was out of touch with Hawaii voters and had voted to raise taxes and take from Social Security.

"This flier makes an accusation about being out of touch with Hawaii," he said in a statement. "It says that people in Washington, D.C., don't care. I agree, because this accusation on behalf of the Aiona campaign comes from a group in Washington, D.C. They don't live in Hawaii, they don't know anything about Hawaii and what's more, they don't care about Hawaii.

"It's part of a nationwide campaign that makes baseless accusations to support a self-serving political agenda. And their vehicle here in Hawaii is Duke Aiona."

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