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Abercrombie asks for fair game rules

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Neil Abercrombie has a beef with the two men he’ll have to defeat, one after the other, to get to the governor’s office.

Truth be told, he has enough bones of contention with them to make up the whole skeleton of a bovine, but the one he gnawed on last week was that they continue to use their public offices as base camps for their campaigns.

Unfair, the former congressman complained.

Deal with it, his opponents replied.

There is nothing illegal about Mufi Hannemann holding on to his desk and parking spot at Honolulu Hale until the candidate filing deadline next month when his lengthy signature on documents will make him a for-real contender for Linda Lingle’s job.

At that point, he’ll have to resign as mayor but, in the intervening weeks, he gets to be simultaneously titular head of the city and the Democrat-guy hoping to be honcho at the state Capitol.

Republican James "Duke" Aiona — the fellow Abercrombie is angling to compete against after the primary election come September — doesn’t have to resign even as he attempts to arise from governor-in-waiting to occupant of the Washington Place annex.

The way state election laws work, Aiona can keep his job, paycheck and all the accouterments of the lieutenant governor’s office through his campaign.

And why wouldn’t he?

As LG, he gets to be the on-stage dignitary at celebratory events like the kickoff for the American Heart Walk. He gets to deliver encouraging words and collect the nice lei, applause and the attention.

Dedicating airport explosive detection systems fits into the "tough on terrorism" mode. Showing up at a leadership forum on tourism portrays him as an executive supportive of businesses. Flying to Parker Ranch for the high school rodeo finals gives him country and kid-friendly creds.

While traveling to Waimea and Kahului on the taxpayer dime, Aiona can’t actively lobby for votes, but the trappings make for good publicity without tapping his campaign’s checkbook.

Aiona’s people say the lieutenant governor will give up his radio shows and won’t appear in state-produced TV announcements, such as the one that has him nimbly running up stairs to promote exercise, when he becomes an official candidate.

Hannemann’s City Hall spokesman said that the mayor, under the same circumstances, isn’t barred from conducting official duties either. But he argued his point by noting that Aiona continued his radio programs, crossing the line from government representative to campaign agent. If a spokesman has trouble with boundaries, candidates themselves must find them tricky.

Hannemann and Aiona say they are honoring the letter of the law, which isn’t the same as the adhering to its intent. The issue becomes one of ethics. The advantage they hold as office-holders should not be exploited as politicians.

Election laws didn’t require Abercrombie to quit Capitol Hill, but running for governor from a land far, far away wasn’t practical. He made his choice. His opponents, meanwhile, still have official responsibilities and should remember that their bully pulpits are only as steady as they are.

Cynthia Oi can be reached at


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