WAILUKU >> After months of talking about each other’s lack of experience and misguided intentions, the two men who would be Hawaii’s Democratic candidate for governor faced off one last time in old Wailuku town.
Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann met at Iao Theatre on Maui for a town hall meeting last night, the last such meeting between the two before the primary election on Saturday.
The topics were the ones they discussed many times before throughout the campaign: renewable energy, education, the economy and civil unions.
Many of their answers to the questions posed were similar, as reflected in other debates and forums.
However, there was some differences of opinion.
This time it came from Hannemann after he said Abercrombie changed his mind about his stance on gambling from a previous debate. During that debate, Abercrombie said he would be willing to look into megalotteries.
This time, at the town hall meeting, when asked the question about whether he would support a statewide lottery, Abercrombie said he would not.
“I think you’re exercising a bit of revisionism,” Hannemann said. “If you care to explain that you can take some of my time.”
The difference was that of statewide lotteries and a megalottery, which includes other states. Noting that Hannemann did not distinguish between the two, Abercrombie replied, “I’ll be happy to give some time back to you to reflect on what you just said.”
Throughout the night both men’s answers inspired applause from the packed house. Abercombie got the first round with his response to the civil unions issue.
“It’s not about categories, it’s about fundamental, constitutional rights,” he said.
The applause was just as strong for Hannemann later when he talked about stimulating the economy and his experience working with the private sector as Honolulu mayor. “You have to have a track record,” he said.
One questioner asked Abercrombie where he would get the money to pay for some of the new programs he is proposing, a topic which Hannemann has attacked recently. Abercrombie replied that it wouldn’t cost more to restructure already existing government departments in a more effecient way.
Not satisfied with his opponent’s answer, Hannemann called him out afterward. “I say again, where is this money going to come from?” Hannemann said.
Both men made it a point to discuss Maui issues such as roads and water. Before the meeting started, some Maui residents, waiting in line to get into the theater, said they deserve to be the last grand stage such an important primary.
“This is excellent,” said Deborah Taylor, an adult corrections officer. “We have issues we want to address to. It’s about time we get to be heard.”
The town hall meeting, sponsored by the Maui Chamber of Commerce, the Maui News, and the Realtors Association of Maui Inc., used only questions from the audience which had been written down and submitted before the event started.
Outside, about a dozen United Public Workers union members protested across the street from the theater: that their union did not poll rank-and-file before endorsing candidates or making other union decisions.
Specifically, UPW members said they were not protesting their union’s endorsement of Hannemann, but only that they would have liked to have been part of the decision-making process.
“Everybody has their own opinion. We want to have input instead of shoving it down our throats,” said Maui Community Correctional Center Sgt. Kaleo Cullen. “Let’s vote on it.”