Sparks fly in contentious debate as Maui mayoral candidates vie for votes

Maui County’s race for mayor is turning into the most contentious in the state.
Published: Oct. 16, 2022 at 5:33 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 17, 2022 at 3:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County’s race for mayor is turning into the most contentious in the state.

In a debate Saturday night organized by Akaku Maui Community Media, incumbent Mayor Mike Victorino defended his record while retired Judge Richard Bissen accused Victorino of being a passive mayor.

“I’ve been here 14 years and we’ve been working on these issues all that time because they haven’t been simple issues,” said Victorino. “My opponent thinks you just snap a finger and settle it, I’m sorry to mention it.”

“I don’t think we just snap our fingers; I think we should be active and not passive,” countered Bissen.

“I don’t think we should blame everything on well, that’s the state’s job or that’s the pandemic or that’s something out of our control. To me, that’s a lack of leadership.”

Those statements came up during questions regarding climate change.

Both mayoral candidates expressed support for land swapping for properties facing erosion.

They also shared similar views on homelessness along with supporting reservations and fees to manage over-tourism

Water is another big issue on Maui.

“Now with this influx of federal infrastructure money, we’re going to dedicate a large portion of that up-country to make sure that our system is really palatable and usable,” said Victorino.

“And that the sources that we are talking about, especially ground sources will be developed.”

“This isn’t a new thing,” Bissen responded.

“And the way we distribute water meters to wait for somebody to have to pay all the money who’s at the end of the line when everybody in that line should be paying for that’s why we need to change our policies.”

They also differ about the out-of-control deer population on Maui.

Bissen calls for eradication while Victorino wants to manage it.

“They are growing faster than we can control them and it is without question, the biggest concern for our watersheds,” said Bissen.

“This is not just, oh, we want to keep it as a business, the business is outweighed by the urgency.”

“That’s what I’m looking at, a managed way of taking care of it making a business,” said Victorino. “Making it a help for needy, and most importantly, protecting our farmers and ranchers from the devastation.”

The general election will be held on Nov. 8, and many Maui voters remain undecided.

Tina Wildberger, who says she’s a progressive, feels like she doesn’t have a good choice between the two candidates.

“I’m left like a lot of other progressives who are particularly environmentally concerned, left with lackluster indecision,” said Wildberger.

“I’m having a hard time picking a choice and I think a lot of other people are in the same position.”