HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There were not a lot of fireworks during a debate between democratic gubernatorial candidates Neil Abercrombie and Mufi Hannemann Wednesday afternoon in Iwilei. The men were relatively civil to one another but did express differences when it came to civil unions, their track records, and leadership qualifications.
The debate was sponsored by the Hawaii Publishers Association. It was watched by a relatively small audience of close to 100 people.
"What we've heard from the people is that they want change. They want real change," said former US representative Neil Abercrombie.
Abercrombie repeatedly said he is the right candidate to effect change.
"It's not a question of qualifications. It's a question of the direction the state is going in. People want change. They don't want the status quo. They don't want status quo politics. They don't want the old guard leadership. They want a new vision and a new way and a new day for Hawaii" said Abercrombie.
Hannemann said if people really want change they cannot want Abercrombie because he is part of that old guard leadership.
"If he's been in congress for 20 years, been in the public spotlight for 40 years, is he very credible in talking about change and how effective has he been? Because these issues didn't just pop up overnight. The economy. Education. Health care. The environment. They've been around for a long time. So it does come down to qualifications," Hannemann said.
Hannemann argues he is best qualified because he spent five and a half years as Honolulu mayor, the type of CEO position Abercrombie has never held.
They agree Hawaii needs more affordable housing, and each says he will be better than the other at getting it built.
They agree tourism and technology are key to improving our economy and each says he is the right man to create jobs in those areas.
They disagree somewhat on the topic of civil unions. Abercrombie promised to support civil union legislation. Hannemann said while he thinks benefits should be extended to same sex couples, but those relationships should not be confused with marriage.
When the moderator asked the candidates if they would actively support or oppose civil union legislation, Abercrombie answered with an emphatic "Yes."
When asked if he would sign or veto civil union legislation he said without hesitation, "Sign."
Hannemann's answers to those questions were not as direct.
"I want to make sure that benefits are extended and given whether you are a marriage between a man or a woman, or if it comes from a same sex situation where they happen to be domestic partners or civil unions, but I have to be clear. My position has always been marriage is sacrosanct between a man and a woman. I will hold to that. I will also be very clear in trying to resolve any difference we might have in terms of some people feeling discriminated against," Hannemann said.
"This was a civil debate," Hawaii News Now political analyst Dan Boylan said after the debate.
"I think despite the bad blood between these two over a number of years in various campaigns and so forth, they agree on an awful awful lot of stuff.
What they're arguing about, I think, is one (Abercrombie) is trying to make that visionary argument. The other (Hannemann) is trying to say, I'm an executive and a collaborative worker and I've proven that in an executive position," Boylan said.
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