Hanabusa, Schatz square off in final televised debate on Hawaii News Now

Ben's report: Hanabusa, Schatz square off in final televised debate on Hawaii News Now
Published: Jul. 16, 2014 at 9:32 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 18, 2014 at 1:47 AM HST
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Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii News Now debate
Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa in Hawaii News Now debate

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Democratic Party U.S. Senate Candidates, Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa, passionately debated policy points in their final statewide, televised prime-time debate before the primary election.

The debate was hosted by Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Sen. Schatz and Congresswoman Hanabusa faced questions from Hawaii News Now reporters Chris Tanaka and Grace Lee along with veteran Star-Advertiser Political Reporter Richard Borreca. Other questions also came from viewers through social media.

A wide range of questions were thrown in the candidates' direction, covering everything from character and conduct of the candidates to major issues facing Hawaii and the Nation such as federal spending and jobs, war and national security, and Hawaiian Sovereignty.

One topic the candidates tackled was Department of Interior's efforts to create a distinction as a tribe for federal recognition for native Hawaiians.

"I do not believe that the native Hawaiians should be treated as a tribe," Hanabusa said. "So the next step has to be that the Department of Interior must come back... and define what would we be reestablishing, what would be that nation to nation relationship and who are the native Hawaiian community?"

"The configuration of a native Hawaiian governing entity has to be determined by people in Hawaii, by Hawaiians in Hawaii and there's not consensus yet," Schatz said.

"I don't think either candidate came out ahead," said University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Colin Moore after watching the debate. "There were some disagreements, but I think those disagreements got into the minutiae of the legislative process pretty quickly."

According to Moore, Schatz tried to prove he was the more effective person in Congress.

"You saw him emphasizing various things he'd done," said Moore. "He emphasized again and again his work to save the United (Airlines) jobs."

Hanabusa's job in the debate was to cast doubt on Schatz's record and to show that she's the more serious lawmaker.

"She said that she reads the bills, that she is the more substantive legislator and that Brian Schatz, to some extent, is more about show," said Moore.

It was Schatz who called out Hanabusa for being unable to push through her own bills.

"You had an opportunity to serve for three and-a-half years for the First Congressional District," he said in the debate. "You've introduced 28 bills. One of them has passed, and it is the renaming of a post office after Cec Heftel." Heftel is a former Hawaii congressman.

Hanabusa took her own shots, standing up for her vote against a federal air quality that that might have shut down Hawaii's last operating sugar mill on Maui.

"You would have killed HC&S if that rule went through," she told Schatz. "So in 2013, they were able to delay it, and they came up with the rule that we need that now saved HC&S. You're the one who don't understand."

Even afterward, the congresswoman was still eager to debate.

"There's never enough time to explain the complexity of many of the issues that we're faced with," said Hanabusa.

The senator looked to the final phase of the primary campaign.

"We're gonna be on the phone, we're gonna be walking house to house, we're gonna be using social media to get the word out," said Schatz. "This is a very important election."

Both candidates hoped to make a last impression before the August 9 primary. Early ballots are already being mailed out to voters.

The complete debate can be viewed on HawaiiNewsNow.com.

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