HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As expected the Office of Hawaiian Affairs debate started with questions about the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, more commonly known as the Akaka Bill. It would give federal recognition to Native Hawaiians similar to that of Native Americans. Native Hawaiians are the only indigenous group in the country not to be recognized. Both Duke Aiona and Neil Abercrombie support the bill but one has more of a wait and see approach.
"I will have to wait until this election is done. I believe there will be a change both in congress as well as in the senate and I will take it from that point," said Aiona, when asked what he would do to get Republicans in Washington to pass the bill.
"We're in a position to once again go to congress and I think we have an excellent chance to do that," said Abercrombie, who says he led the passage of the bill three times in the house already.
The talk about getting settlement money for Hawaii's ceded lands turned light when both joked about their working relationship with key lawmakers like Speaker of the House Calvin Say.
"By way of full disclosure the speaker of the house was my student I gave him a very good grade," laughed Abercrombie.
"I got one up on your relationship with the speaker he went to St. Louis (School)," laughed Aiona, who also graduated from St. Louis and sits on the school's Board of Trustees.
On that theme the debate moved to education and the budget issue that led to cutting school days last year and dropped Hawaii to the lowest amount of instructional days in the country.
"Furloughs would not have occurred on an instructional day. My solution would have been to cut the labor savings and take an across the board pay cut," said Aiona.
"When you put the education of a child on the negotiating table you've lost your sense of values, you've lost your sense of priorities," said Abercrombie.
An area where they disagreed was on use of government. Abercrombie wants to use more federal funds. Aiona wants smaller government overall.
"This administration has spent the last eight years saying here's why we can't do things. An Abercrombie administration will get things done," said Abercrombie.
"What you failed to do again, and I can't believe you said this but are you telling me for 20 years you've been in congress you haven't revealed where all the federal money is Mr. Abercrombie?" asked Aiona.
And before the debate was history they dug up the State Historic Preservation Division which Abercrombie called dysfunctional.
"Your administration allowed this to happen and what did you do to try and stop it?" asked Abercrombie.
"First of all it's not my administration. You had a chance to run against Governor Lingle four years ago you should have done that. It's her administration," said Aiona.
"If you knew there were problems in 2002 then why wasn't it handled? I think that's a legitimate observation it's not meant personally," said Abercrombie.
To be continued... If your mind is still not made up there's another debate on PBS this Thursday at 7:00. It's moderated by Hawaii News Now political analyst Dan Boylan.