HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now takes a closer look at the leading democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor who will be facing off in the primary.
Incumbent Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui and challenger Clayton Hee both served in the Senate and each has represented Maui at some point in their legislative career, now they're battling for the number two job in state government.
Incumbent Shan Tsutsui says it's been a privilege to hold the job the last 18 months and he's ready for four more years.
"It's been a privilege to work with this Governor. It's been a privilege for me to work in this Legislature and so everyday I feel blessed and if the people of Hawai'i want to allow me to continue to serve them, I'll be grateful for that opportunity as well," Tsutsui said.
Clayton Hee says he's running for Lieutenant Governor because he believes he can do a better job.
"I know it sounds arrogant, but it's not meant to be arrogant. I just think that I can do a better job, respectfully. I'm not sure what he's done in 18 months. I'm not saying he's a bad person. I'm just saying, I'm not sure what he's done. Let's turn that office into a do-something office and I think I can do it," Hee said.
As Senate Judiciary & Labor committee chair, Hee cites raising the minimum wage to $10.10 as a top achievement this year.
"The working poor have to keep up with the cost of living and up until this year the working poor has been sliding backwards. As inflation has gone up every year, their wages have remained the same for the last eight years so it's a long time coming to increase the minimum wage for the working poor," Hee said.
Hee also lead the way in passing marriage equality during last fall's special session.
"That issue to me is an issue that deals with the four words above the U.S. Supreme Court building, 'Equal justice under law'. It's real simple. It gives life to the phrase, 'With liberty and justice for all'," Hee said. Civil rights issues should be dealt with at the Legislature or the courts and should be dealt with in accordance to that document that enshrines liberty and justice for all -- the United States Constitution. Regardless that we may disagree, it is the Constitution that provides those freedoms and liberties that we all live under."
As Senate President, Tsutsui says he helped kill the governor's pension tax.
"We heard loud and clear from many seniors who would've been adversely affected by having their fixed income all of a sudden being taxed -- something they never planned for to no fault of their own, the law was the law. So to change it I thought wouldn't be an appropriate thing to do -- even in light of the economic recession that we were in, because we needed to look at other things. We needed to look at other ways to try to balance the budget, which we did," Tsutsui said. "One of them being the increase in the rental car vehicle surcharge tax, which we felt would have brought in the same amount of revenues to the state coffer, as well as diverting the majority of that to our visitors who come visit us, as opposed to our residents."
As Lt. Governor, Tstsui trumpets his lobbying efforts for the Obama Presidential Library and the creation of an after-school enrichment program for middle schoolers.
"It's called REACH -- Resources for Enrichment Athletics Culture and Health. It's an after-school program, really trying to engage students in the basics of academic enrichment -- whether it's through robotics or digital media and looking at athletics as another key component to keep students engaged, as well as arts and culture. That's one of the areas, which I believe has kind of been cut out of the curriculum just because of the increasing amount of testing that our students are required to do," Tsutsui said.
Both men agree a big difference between them is style.
"It depends on what people expect out of their Chief Executive. I think some folks really like people who are fiery and others would like people who are a little more measured," said Tsutsui. "I prefer to kind of be more -- to advise and counsel and try to bring parties together as opposed to trying to divide folks."
"I'm a real straightforward kind of guy, if people ask me a question -- I believe they're entitled to the answer. Regardless that they might not appreciate the answer," Hee said. "I'm not a lap dog. Never been one. I don't intend to be one if I'm elected Lt. Governor."
Voters will not get the opportunity to see the candidates go head-to-head in a debate. Hee says his opponent has turned down every request. Tsutsui says scheduling conflicts have prevented him from participating.
"People are entitled to seeing the candidates for office face each other one-on-one, particularly when there's an incumbent. The incumbent has a responsibility to explain to the voters why that incumbent believes he's entitled to four years," said Hee.
"I think it's more important for me at this point to continue to listen and understand some of the needs of the community and work on possible solutions as we move forward. I unfortunately still have to work and so whenever I take time out of my schedule during the day -- it's vacation hours, even if it's not really vacation, if it's for campaign purposes," said Tsutsui.
The primary election is Saturday, August 9, 2014.