Several women in leadership roles held a news conference today at the state Capitol to blast Gov. David Ige for a campaign commercial that they say presents a double standard against women.
State Rep. Della Au Belatti (D, Moiliili-Makiki-Tantalus) said she was surprised when she saw the ad, which begins with an image of Ige’s opponent in the governor’s race, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, then a woman saying, “criticism isn’t leadership.”
Belatti, House majority leader, said the ad is a “low blow” because it implies Hanabusa, as a woman, is “too critical” for simply pointing out facts.
She said at a time when many women are running for office, women still often hear in business that they shouldn’t be so aggressive. She said assertive women in leadership positions are simply doing their jobs and offering constructive criticism.
“If this becomes acceptable, then what does that say to my daughter: ‘Don’t speak up, don’t be assertive, otherwise you’re going to be perceived as aggressive?’” she asked. “That’s not the message you want to send to young girls.”
Belatti challenged Ige to pull the commercial and instead start having a conversation about his record.
State Sen. Michelle Kidani, vice president of the Senate, who also attended the news conference, scoffed at the idea that Hanabusa shouldn’t criticize Ige.
“If she were a male opponent, would he be saying the same thing?” she asked. “If you don’t want to have criticism, maybe you’re in the wrong business.”
Glenna Wong, spokeswoman for Ige’s campaign, said the campaign will not take down the ad, which was on the campaign website today.
“It is unfortunate but not unexpected, given her track record, that Hanabusa has gone into attack mode,” she said in a statement. “The truth is that Governor Ige has a lifelong record on equal justice, pro-choice, and advancing women’s rights. He has dedicated his career to helping women and families.”
In a statement through her campaign, Hanabusa said: “The women who spoke (Sunday) were articulate and eloquent, and their comments speak for themselves. I appreciate their willingness to step forward and make their voices heard.”
About 20 women attended the press conference, including former first ladies Vicky Cayetano and Nancie Caraway, wife of former Gov. Neil Abercrombie. Belatti said the press conference arose out of conversations among community leaders, not through Hanabusa’s campaign.
Belatti and others also had other complaints about Ige.
Belatti said Ige was not present when the Legislature was trying to find a solution for funding rail, but Hanabusa and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz were there to help.
Kidani (D, Mililani-Waikele-Kunia) said Ige has claimed credit for Legislative accomplishments, such as the Legislative initiative for cooling public schools.
And community leader Amy Agbayani expressed concern about the lack of women in the governor’s administration.
Wong, spokeswoman for Ige’s campaign, said: “Ige and his administration initiated numerous bills and advocated the Legislature for funding to get the tasks done.
“Look at the real facts and how much Governor Ige has achieved in less than four years, and his endorsements from so many who are confident of his leadership.”