Thursday, October 8, 2015         

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Aiona and Abercrombie agree to several debates

By Derrick DePledge


After a week of behind-the-scenes negotiations, former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona have committed to several debates and forums in their campaign for governor.

The two candidates have agreed to at least two televised debates -- on the PBS "Insights" show on Oct. 14 and on KITV on Oct. 22 -- as well as forums sponsored by the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kaiser Permanente, the Good Beginnings Alliance and the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Aiona has conditionally accepted televised debates on Hawaii News Now and KHON, while the Abercrombie campaign has declined the invitations from both stations. Several other joint forums are still on the table.

On Sunday, Aiona, who has complained about the format for some of the televised debates during the primary, challenged Abercrombie to a series of six one-hour debates on public-policy issues. 

"Unfortunately, my opponent was unwilling to answer my challenge to debate in-depth the critical issues facing our working families and small businesses," the Republican said in a statement. "We have only five weeks left to show voters how we will govern so they can make an informed decision in the general election. Once it became clear that my opponent didn't want to immediately focus this campaign on the issues, we agreed to any debates we could. I'm ready to debate right now."

Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for the Abercrombie campaign, suggested the Aiona campaign was engaged in public-relations instead of negotiation. Aiona repeated his debate challenge at two news conferences last week while Abercrombie was taking personal time with his wife on the neighbor islands.

"Lieutenant governor Duke Aiona's approach to setting debates is reminiscent of the Lingle-Aiona administration's approach to Furlough Fridays," Au said in a statement. "Rather than trying to come to a resolution, they are broadcasting press releases."

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