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Caldwell and Cayetano react to ads

The ex-governor wants his mayoral rival to reject attacks

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 1:05 p.m. HST, Oct 24, 2012

A day after mayoral candidate Ben Caye­tano sued a third-party business and labor group for libel, opponent Kirk Caldwell said he's also seen enough of negative campaigning and wants to focus on issues affecting the city.

"Enough already … 'nuff … let's move on," Caldwell told reporters Tuesday after a forum at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel featuring the two candidates and sponsored by the Rotary Club of Hono­lulu.

"I don't like negative campaigning or advertising," Caldwell said. "You don't see that from my campaign, nor do I talk about it in any way."

Caldwell said he did not like that the publicity over the negative campaigning was deflecting attention from other issues.

"I'm running on sewers and water and road repaving and taking away of our garbage," he said.

But he did not do what Cayetano said he should: denounce the ads by the Pacific Resource Partnership political action committee. Instead, Caldwell noted that third-party organizations supporting Caye­tano's campaign have likewise made personal attacks on him. "I'm not going around filing any lawsuits on this issue. I believe the best way to address it, for me, and I'm talking about me, personally, is to grow a thicker skin," Caldwell said.

Cayetano said he believes in a fair fight. "If PRP had done something like that to Kirk, what they're doing to me, I would know it would be false because I know Kirk is not that kind of person. And I would've said something to disassociate myself from that campaign," Caye­tano said.

The PRP-sponsored ads accuse Caye­tano of knowingly accepting illegal campaign contributions and committing other transgressions. Caye­tano sued PRP for libel Monday.

The former governor said he was "disappointed" at Caldwell's initial response to his lawsuit. In an email to the Star-Advertiser on Monday, Caldwell said he was legally barred from talking to PRP or any third party organization working for or against him in the election.

"Well, that's true, but he can make a public statement," Caye­tano said.

As for Caldwell's "thicker skin" comment, Caye­tano said the ads that have run against Caldwell do not falsely accuse the former legislator of criminal behavior, as the PRP ads claim with Caye­tano.

"Being critical is one thing; accusing people of a crime is another," Caye­tano said.

PRP, far from stopping its $1.2 million campaign against Caye­tano, in recent days has begun running a new series of ads pointing out that as governor he pardoned 203 people, more than any other Hawaii governor.

The ads say those pardoned included people convicted of murder, rape and domestic abuse and that some went on to commit other crimes after their release.

Cayetano, in response, said 95 percent of his pardons were based on the recommendations of the Hawaii Paroling Authority or othe public safety officials. He also said, "Unlike any other administration, my administration had to struggle really hard with prison space, and one reason why we let people go on parole, or I pardoned people, was to in fact lighten the population of the prison because the Legislature would not let me build a prison."

The state also had to send prisoners to the mainland, he said.

"So I'm not ashamed of that, I'm proud of the pardons that I made, because I think, first of all, they were necessary, and second, I believe in giving people a second chance," Caye­tano said.

During Tuesday's debate, students from St. Andrew's Priory posed questions to the candidates. Some dealt with nontraditional debate topics such as empowering youths and children, and creating job opportunities for them.

But as in previous debates and forums, the discussion eventually centered on the city's $5.26 billion rail project, which Caldwell supports and Caye­tano has vowed to kill.

Cayetano said cuts in bus service made this past summer by the outgoing administration of Mayor Peter Carlisle were done in anticipation of the rail project.

Caldwell, echoing statements made by the administration, said that charge was false and that the cuts were made to help balance the current city operating budget.

Caldwell criticized Caye­tano repeatedly for being a one-issue candidate. Caye­tano said the debt the city's taxpayers would be saddled with from the project would have a negative impact on the city's ability to conduct any other business.

The forum was their last scheduled joint appearance before the Nov. 6 election.

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