HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he has far more executive experience than the other two leading candidates for governor, but they said they have backgrounds that prepare them to lead state government.
Whoever becomes Hawaii's next governor will oversee 17 state departments and about 52,000 employees, so experience running a big organization is important.
Democrat David Ige, who chairs the State Senate Ways and Means Committee, is a longtime state lawmaker. But he said he oversaw a staff of 40 people as a supervising engineer at the telephone company and headed a department of 100 people at internet startup company Net Enterprises.
"I do bring a private sector perspective to the job and specific private sector experience that I think differentiates me from the other candidates," Ige said.
But Hannemann, who served six years as Honolulu mayor before running unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, said, "There's no substitute for real executive experience. Overseeing 40 employees is not the same as overseeing 10,000 employees and a $1 billion operating budget."
Hannemann said he offers hands-on government CEO leadership his two major opponents lack.
"David Ige has been a wonderful legislator. I have great respect for him in the legislative process. But it's like taking an offensive guard in football and saying now you're going to be the quarterback," Hannemann said.
When a reporter pointed out to Ige that his experience managing dozens of staffers is much different from overseeing more than 50,000 employees as governor, he agreed.
"But I would make that argument for any candidate for governor," Ige said. "You can probably go back 50 years and begin to ask the questions what kind of executive experience any of the candidates for governor had, and I think you see very different kinds of experiences ."
Republican Duke Aiona said his executive experience centers on being at former Gov. Linda Lingle's side for eight years, while he was lieutenant governor.
"That's probably why I was in the best position anyone could be in, because I didn't get blamed for anything. It was all Governor Lingle's decisions, it's her administration," Aiona said. "But I was there to see how the process was done, right? How the decisions were made. What the tools of the executive office are."
But Aiona admitted his executive experience as LG was mostly watching Lingle work.
"I was a part of the process, right? Yeah, mainly it's observation, but I was a part of the process," Aiona said.