In their last scheduled statewide television appearance on Sunday, Democrat Mark Takai and Republican Charles Djou broke little new ground on issues choosing instead to sharpen their rhetoric on partisanship and who would better serve the people of Hawaii in the next Congress.
Takai again attempted to tie Djou to tea party Republicans who some have blamed for divisive partisan politics that have prevented Congress from getting any work done. Djou has characterized the attacks as nothing more than petty name calling, repeatedly referring to the current climate as “poisonous.”
Takai also addressed charges by Republicans that he has changed his position on some issues from when he first took office, noting that throughout his career as a state lawmaker his political views have been shaped by his life experiences.
“I think that as a good leader, especially in the Legislature after 20 years, acknowledging and making shifts in judgment is OK,” Takai said. “I think it’s important to acknowledge responding to your constituents and over time constituents, as well, change.”
He then shifted the focus, painting Djou as an obstructionist aligned with tea party Republicans whose values and priorities do not match those of traditionally Democratic Hawaii. He noted that Djou has voted against omnibus budget bills at every level of government throughout his career.
“That is not a centrist. That is actually an obstructionist,” Takai said. “It’s easy to just say no, but what that means is: every single item in that budget, you’re saying no to”
Djou, who held the office for seven months after winning a special election in 2010, argued that he has been a centrist throughout his career and voted against tax increases because of the burden they place on Hawaii residents.
“We are crushing our people with an incredibly high cost of living,” he said. “I don’t want to make it more difficult for the people.”
He stressed the need to hold the line on taxes, but stopped short of saying he would never raise taxes.
“If we absolutely need to – everything’s on the table,” Djou said.
He used the opportunity to say he would work with any member of Congress, regardless of party, and repeated his stance that it was critical for voters to elect someone who would be able to represent Hawaii’s interests in the majority caucus should both chambers go to the Republicans in the fall, as some have speculated.
The debate, sponsored by Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, marked their third head-to-head forum in five days. The forums have allowed both to stake out familiar positions on various issues, including Social Security and Medicare, the Jones Act, renewable energy, the Veterans Affairs Administration and the war against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.