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Manabat on defensive in House campaign

By Susan Essoyan


Chris Kalani Manabat, who won a crowded Demo­cratic primary, faces former state Rep. Bob McDermott in the House race to represent Ewa Beach and Iroquois Point, but the campaign trail has been full of potholes for the first-time candidate.

First, the Democratic Party informed Mana­bat that he wasn't a member of the party as required by law when he filed to run in the primary for the new 40th District, although he thought he had joined a couple of years earlier.

Then the Republican Party accused Mana­bat of misleading voters by touting his six years of experience working at the Legislature while neglecting to point out that his boss is his mother, Rep. Rida Caba­nilla. And now the city clerk is looking into a complaint alleging he registered to vote at an address where he doesn't live.

Manabat, 28, flatly denies the residence claim and said he has submitted evidence to the clerk, including his rental agreement and a Hawaii state ID card issued in April, verifying that he lives at the Ewa Beach home where he is registered. As for his personal connection to Caba­nilla, he said he left that out of his campaign because he did not want to use his mother's reputation to elevate his candidacy.

"I wanted to avoid any possible merit transfer from my mother to me," he said.

Republican Party Chairman David Chang, however, questioned Mana­bat's qualifications to be Caba­nilla's office manager and called the situation "clearly nepotism." A Wai­pahu High School graduate, Mana­bat has taken courses at Kapiolani Community College but has not earned a degree.

"This whole thing reeks of favoritism, inequity and preferential treatment," Chang said. "It is precisely the type of behavior that gives our honest and decent public servants a bad name."

Manabat said he worked his way up at the Legislature, volunteering for two years in his mother's office before being hired as a legislative aide. He became chief of staff in November when his predecessor quit unexpectedly.

"It being so close to session, I was the only one at the time she was comfortable with, who knew how the office worked," he said. "At the time I was the most qualified person for her."

His Republican opponent, McDermott, who served in the state House from 1996 to 2002, said one of the first pieces of advice he received at the Capitol was not to hire his relatives.

"It's not illegal and you're allowed to do it, but it doesn't pass the smell test," McDermott said.

There is no legal prohibition against nepotism, but the state ethics code forbids legislators from using their positions to secure unwarranted privileges, contracts or treatment for themselves or others.

In his complaint alleging fraudulent voter registration, unsuccessful primary candidate Joseph Rattner said he doesn't believe Mana­bat lives at the Ewa Beach home of Patro­ci­nio Bolo, a former staffer for Caba­nilla. Rattner noted that Caba­nilla herself gave a Kai­puu Street address, in Kaimuki, for her son when she listed him as her campaign chairman in a report filed in July with the Campaign Spending Commission.

Manabat, however, said he has lived with the Bolo family since January. The confusion, he said, is because his mother simply made a copy of her 2011 organizational report when she filed campaign documents this summer and neglected to update his address.

As far as his party membership, Mana­bat attributed the discrepancy to a mix-up in paperwork, and quickly joined the party once it was brought to his attention. The state Office of Elections leaves it up to the political parties to enforce membership rules, and the Demo­cratic Party did not pursue a challenge in court.

The district that Mana­bat and McDermott are vying to represent lies east of Fort Weaver Road and includes Ewa Beach, Ewa by Gentry and Iroquois Point. Republican Rep. Kymberly Marcos Pine represented much of the area but is challenging Tom Berg for his City Council seat.

McDermott, executive director of the Hono­lulu Council of the Navy League, said he pushed to ensure that federal impact aid went to education when he was in office, and would focus on upgrading schools if elected.

A father of eight, McDermott previously ran for Congress and the City Council but lost both bids. He earned his bachelor's in economics and master's in business at Cha­mi­nade University, and has been endorsed by the General Contractors Association and the National Rifle Association.

"The issues first and foremost for me are twofold," he said. "Repair and maintenance of the schools, and I think we need a new high school. And secondly, we need to stay ahead of the curve on transportation issues."

"I will be a much better legislator than I was 15 years ago," he added, "because I'm older and wiser, and I have a lot more relationships with good people who can help me on both sides of the aisle."

Manabat said he will focus on education and security in the district if he is elected, and feels well prepared to serve the community given his years at the Legislature.

"I honestly believe that if I am to be elected, I will hit the ground running. I can start passing legislation right away to benefit people in Ewa," he said.

"My main goal is going to be getting another high school for Ewa," he said. "I also want to get another police substation so police response time is faster and there is more police presence so people feel safer. I'm just looking to serve my community, the community that I grew up in."

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turbolink wrote:
Mixed up paperwork is an overused excuse when folks are cutting corners and get challenged. Just like wanting to spend time with family as a standard response when a high placed staffer parts ways with their former patron.
on October 27,2012 | 07:15AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
I doesn't sound like a one-time error in paperwork, so much as a consistent pattern of ignoring ALL paperwork, rules and laws.
on October 27,2012 | 12:35PM
dlum003 wrote:
Only 26 and already corrupt
on October 27,2012 | 07:40AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Only in Hawaii politics and government is ignorance used as a defense.
on October 27,2012 | 07:46AM
turbolink wrote:
Mixed up resume paperwork, mixed up paperwork in his mother-the-legislator’s office, mixed up party membership paperwork. What are the odds? Business as usual. We need to take turns doing bed checks at what he says is his current residence. Isn’t this convenient?
on October 27,2012 | 07:56AM
Kapakahi wrote:
I suspect Bob McDermott will win this race easily. I hope he has learned a lot since he was last in the House. At the time, he struck me as an uninformed blowhard, who sought publicity. I am willing to be pleasantly surprised.

Manabat may be a good kid, but he is totally unprepared for the job. In candidate forums, he displays no knowledge of the issues, nor a grasp of the legislative process. Frankly, his employment at his mother's office probably makes him less-prepared than if he had been unemployed. Rep. Cabanilla's office is well-known as a place the least qualified staffers work. It has always been an assortment of misfits. Neither Cabanilla nor Manabat deserve to be elected. It says something about the community that either of them has gotten this far.

on October 27,2012 | 09:15AM
Kalli wrote:
This is exactly why Ewa Beach is always behind the rest of the state. Manabat will win only because he is filipino and that is what wins races in this area. The fact that he doesn't know that we do not need another high school and that the police work for the city and not the state goes to show the type of people we end up with. It's bad enough that his mother keeps winning in Ewa even after all the complaints and investigations into her activities. Remember when she tried to pass a law that would allow her office worker to develop a care home closer to another care home than permitted. When that was found out she withdrew the bill.
on October 27,2012 | 09:23AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
I believe the people of Ewa, including Filipinos, will make a good decision on this election...one NOT based on ethnic affiliation. You underestimate them.
on October 27,2012 | 12:25PM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
It is very hard to take seriously a 28 year old child, particularly one so undistinguished. If I was his mother, I'd take him behind the woodshed and give him lickings for being so presumptuous. Plus negligant and unprepared. To say nothing of embarrassing. Has Manabat no shame, no delicadesa? How can he possibly come up and ask for my vote when he knows nothing, does nothing...
on October 27,2012 | 09:24AM
Keith_Rollman wrote:
Add to Mr. Manabat's problems that fact that his Facebook page shows he's "studying" at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek Michigan, NOT Kapiolani Community College. He says elsewhere that he's taking classes at the University of Hawaii. It all sounds totally fishy to me...especially since he graduated from Waipahu High School almost ten years ago.
on October 27,2012 | 12:28PM
AndrewWalden wrote:
The Real Chris Manabat ____________ http://chrismanabat.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/hello-world/
on October 27,2012 | 01:12PM
hawaiinui wrote:
OMG...Reminds me of the old TV program, To Tell The Truth. The question now is....."Will the REAL Chris Manabat please stand up". I really mean the one that actually lives in Ewa Beach.
on October 27,2012 | 05:03PM
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