Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s campaign for governor has mailed out a comparison brochure to voters statewide that contains references to where Hannemann and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie were born, the names of their wives, and the fact that Abercrombie once won first place in the Lahaina Whaling Days beard contest.
Hannemann’s campaign said all of the information in the "Compare and Decide" brochure is factual. But Abercrombie, Hannemann’s opponent in the Democratic primary, said it is an example of negative campaigning.
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Political Radar: Whaling
"Our opponent continues to quickly dismiss any unflattering fact about his record as negative campaigning, yet he does not contest the accuracy of those facts," Carolyn Tanaka, a spokeswoman for the Hannemann campaign, said in a statement. "And he is doing it again."
Abercrombie, in a statement, said the brochure "is not what a governor does."
"He’s asking you to compare the fact that he was born in Hawaii and I was born on the mainland," he said. "That he went to Harvard, and I went to the University of Hawaii. He dismisses my 35 years of service to the people of Hawaii. He even asks you to compare our wives and decide. Compare and decide? What’s the message here?"
Neal Milner, a political science professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, said the Hannemann brochure does not contain any distinctions on public policy issues and instead portrays Abercrombie as an outsider with an insignificant record.
"This all becomes about character and leadership," Milner said.
Several Democrats, speaking privately because they did not want to appear to be taking sides in the primary, thought Hannemann was again trying to suggest Abercrombie is an outsider by noting he was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and that he and his wife are haole. In July, Hannemann, who was born in Honolulu and is of Samoan and German descent, told the Hawaii Carpenters Union that carpenters deserved a candidate they could relate to and said, "I look like you. You look like me."
The reference in the brochure to the Lahaina Whaling Days beard contest, some said, was gratuitous and belittled the record of someone who served in Congress for two decades.
Other Democrats, however, did not believe the brochure crossed the line into negative campaigning when taken as a whole. Biographical references are included in many news media profiles of the candidates, some said, and Abercrombie himself once listed the beard contest in an unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 1970.
"It was hardball but not completely below the belt," one Democrat said.