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Cayetano targets criticism at Caldwell in first mayoral debate

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 9:26 p.m. HST, May 2, 2012


The three candidates vying for Honolulu mayor engaged in the first debate of the campaign season tonight, touching on a variety of subjects but ultimately trying to score points against one another on the singularly contentious issue of rail transit.

Both Mayor Peter Carlisle and former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell support completion of the $5.27 billion project, while former Gov. Ben Cayetano has vowed to kill it. Construction began last week.

Though mostly cordial, the forum before 150 people at the Plaza Club downtown had its moments of bite, largely because of Cayetano, the former two-term Democratic governor who leveled some of the night's harshest criticism at Caldwell, a fellow Democrat. Although the race is nonpartisan, Cayetano and Caldwell are likely to attract Democratic voters.

In a round of questions on what motivates each to run for office, Cayetano bristled at the suggestion by Caldwell that his private-sector experience might translate better to running the city.

"The trouble with you is, you have never made a hard decision in your life in government," Cayetano said.

Caldwell called the remark "insulting."

"None of us in this room may have been governor, like Ben, but I know that every single one of us in this room has made hard decisions in our life," Caldwell said. "It's insulting to think that because we weren't governor that we didn't make hard decisions."

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