Mufi and Neil make their case

Some quick impressions of the Mufi Hannemann/Neil Abercrombie debate:

  • The “showdown” hype, razzmatazz and cheering that Hawaii News Now favors in its debates is distracting and creates an annoying WWE atmosphere. Allowing booing and jeering by partisans in the audience without trying to control it until it was too late was unconscionable.
  • Hannemann’s delivery was smoother in constantly coming back to his themes of Hawai‘i values, collaboration and managerial experience. His gigs delivering extemporaneous patter on the radio clearly paid off. Abercrombie started off stiff, choppy and at times fumbling for notes in depicting himself as an agent of change and a fighter for the little guy, but he seemed to find more of a groove after the break.
  • The furor over Hannemann’s negative “Compare & Decide” ad is having a clear impact on the campaign. Both brought their indoor voices and a determination to play nice. The questions they asked each other and some of the answers were pointed, but they actually threw some compliments each others’ way and the seething hostility we’ve seen in the past wasn’t as evident.
  • Hannemann’s measured tone had some success in defanging himself after Ed Case’s description of him as a bully and “the most dangerous politician in a generation,” but it was partly undone by his supporters’ rude heckling of Abercrombie. Hannemann could have scored points by telling them to cool it when the moderators didn’t. Hannemann’s careful modulation gave Abercrombie an opening to outdo him on passion.
  • I’m always struck by how poorly candidates do when given a chance to directly question opponents. The question is usually more of a speech that often leaves the other guy an easy out or even a chance to turn the tables. With all the lawyers and ex-journalists these candidates have on staff, you’d think somebody could instruct them on how to build a Mike Wallace-style “gotcha” that nails the opposition.

Bottom line: Both candidates succeeded in underscoring their campaign themes for undecided voters, but there was little new ground broken, no defining moments and certainly no knockout punches.

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28 Comments on “Mufi and Neil make their case”

  1. townieone Says:

    I hope future political debates will done without an audience. It did nothing but make the debate sound a high school hoss election.

    I’d like to watch the debate again but it looked like Mufi was subtly encouraging the loudest heckler with his smile and eyebrows instead of asking for civility.

  2. Actual Witness Says:

    The majority of the “heckling” clearly came from the Abercrombie side.

  3. jaded Says:

    Not so fast, (non)Actual Witness!! You guys were booing Neil and his supporters even before the cameras started rolling, and I didn’t see anyone on your side trying to control your disrespectful behavior.

    A major thumbs-down to Tannya Joaquin for constantly interrupting Neil in her attempt to throw him off, while ignoring the red light when Mufi was on, allowing him to exceed his alloted time at every opportunity.

  4. hipoli Says:

    Who’s screeching now, Jaded?

    You really believe Tanya was being purposeful against Neil? Wasn’t that Neil simply tended to ramble more than Mufi, requiring to be cut off?

    Tanya moderated as best she could. Both candidates were handfuls, and then throw in the poorly behaved audience, and that’s a lot for a relatively inexperienced moderator to take on. She did ok under the circumstances, and that’s fine. I’m sure she’ll go back to the tape, see where she could have reigned it in a bit more, and learn for next time. She’s a good, young, professional reporter who we should be encouraging, not disparaging. Attacking Tanya is chickensh$t.

    Or as you might call it, screeching.

  5. wnhieu Says:

    You can watch the video again and check for yourself jaded. The initial boos came from Neil’s supporters and then on the next volley the Mufi supporters followed suit. In addition to it, the Neil individuals did it as Mufi was speaking instead of after responses. Though I give you that there was one Mufi supporter who kept talking on her own a little bit, even I was irritated with her.

    From the beginning you could see Abercrombie overstepping his time limit habitually–prompting Tonya to mention that she would give Mufi a little extra time to compensate. This was at the very beginning of the debate and as Neil kept over stepping his time, Ms. Joaquin and the producers really seem to have made an effort to encourage Neil to obey the rules.

    Anybody else catch the moment;

    Neil: “and ..”

  6. Richard Gozinya Says:

    While we each will judge the debate through the filter of our own prejudices, perhaps we can all agree with Dave that no one benefits when the tenor of the debate descends to the level of the Gong Show.

    Wait, perhaps I should say *aspires* to the level of the Gong Show.

  7. jayz43 Says:

    Mufi Hannemann AGAIN has refused to accept any responsibility for the property tax fiasco that acting mayor Caldwell and council members are now trying to clean up. It’s like everything else that went wrong during his administration, it was never his fault. Even when he admitted “The buck stops with me” in explaining the “Pittsburgh Fundraising Caper”, in the very next breath he threw his staff under the bus.

    The heckling at the debate that Hannemann seemed to encourage with looks and smirks, the intimidation tactics of his sign wavers, the bullying and intimidation accusations heard from his opponents over the years, the “racial overtoned” flyers, are all part of this persona that seems to carry over to the people he surrounds himself with.

    I made a comment on this blog months ago that I felt Mufi Hannemann was unelectable and felt he would fall on his own sword because of this character flaw. He is doing a great job of proving me right.

    I see Mufi Hannemann as everything that is wrong in Hawaii politics today. And I feel Colleen Hanabusa is right up there with him.

  8. Babes in the woods Says:

    My favorite part was when Abercrombie sought to further exploit the property reclassification drama by launching an orchestrated attack, as predicted.

    City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi provided the setup by holding a news conference on Young Street the day before the debate to harp on this issue and get it in the news yet again.

    In one of the more shameless displays of absolute hypocrisy from a cunning and ethically challenged politician, Kobayashi apparently forgot to mention that she and a few family members own a 36-unit apartment building on that very street, which was among the 250 properties that the assessor reclassified in December to reflect current commercial/industrial zoning.

    Bill 6 allows property owners to dedicate apartment properties on commercial/industrial-zoned land as residential, and therefore pay a lower tax rate. About 100 of the 250 reclassified properties are not in commercial use and may qualify for the dedications. About 10 are single family homes or duplexes, while the rest are apartment buildings.

    Kobayashi quietly disclosed her ownership interest (although she stated that “my family” owns such property, rather than the more accurate “I and some family members” own it) before voting four times in favor of Bill 6 (twice in committee and twice in full council), then abstaining from the final vote.

    Bill 6 was introduced in January by longtime Kobayashi “ally” Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, a month after Kobayashi and other owners were informed that their properties had been reclassified.

    The timing is important because it makes it, well, let’s just say “rather highly improbable” that Kobayashi and other council members had no idea that properties had been reclassified, and that their owners faced higher taxes, as has been repeatedly claimed.

    It also begs the question of why council members (and Abercrombie supporters) Kobayashi and Romy Cachola waited until August to start agitating and holding press conferences about this issue, when they could have “sounded the alarm” months ago and even remedied the situation by making Bill 6 take effect this year rather than next.

    It was a very good setup, and Abercrombie was shrewd to join in the exploitation.

    Let’s just not have any naive illusions about what really went down.

  9. charles Says:

    I didn’t see the debate but debates in general are not the end-all, be-all when selecting a candidate. Good policymaking is a deliberate, sometimes reflective, and always inclusive process.

    Debates favor the candidate who is glib (Reagan’s There you go again), attractive and can think quick on his/her feet.

    We sometimes forget that in 1960 in the first televised presidential debate, polls were taken as to who “won” the debate.

    Those who watched it thought Kennedy did better. Those who heard it on the radio thought Nixon did better.

    Lastly, allowing the audience to “participate” in simply not conducive to a civil and informative exchange of ideas.

  10. hipoli Says:

    @Babes in the woods: You just showed me, again, why ya gotta love and appreciate our local political blogs. Very interesting. Thank you for sharing that information with us. I hope the mainstream media pick up on this.

  11. jaded Says:

    @Babes in the Woods,

    The fact remains that the areas the properties in question reside on were rezoned and reclassifed beginning in the 1970’s, and the residential owners had been exempt from paying the higher commercial/industrial rates by the Fasi and Harris administrations. It took an affirmative action by the Hanneman administration to remove the exemptions.


    I’m not the one behaving like Keith Rollman around here by harrassing, badgering and screeching — weren’t you called out by Dave before for your “negative” behavior? LOL! I made a simple observation, and Tannya really did keep her eyes off the lights when Mufi was speaking. I know she was doing her best, but she was far from being even-handed which is behavior unbecoming of a moderator.

  12. Michael Says:

    It seems after last nights debate, how the winds died down. It seems someone shut someone up. One of them will be out of a Job!

    Tonya as moderator should have stood in the middle.
    It should be where both speakers face each other and speak, not having to turn to look at each other.
    Was it planned this way that Francis was right of Abercrombie and Neil out in left field of hanneman?

  13. David Shapiro Says:

    OK, enough screeching about screeching and “he started it first” stuff.

    I give the moderators a little slack for being inexperienced and that’s why I didn’t single them out by name. However, if this was like any such event I’ve worked, they had buds in their ears with an experienced director in a booth talking to them. The director should have had them shut down boorish audience behavior early and firmly.

    I didn’t think Tannya did a bad job on the red light. While both often went over the time limit, Hannemann was more disciplined in timing his remarks. He was usually close to a conclusion when the light went on while Abercrombie was often just getting revved up.

  14. WooWoo Says:

    I’m dying to hear about Rollman. Has he been muzzled until the 18th, or is he working full-time on something nuclear?

  15. shaftalley Says:

    to me,it doesn’t matter who wins.abercrombie,hanneman, will be business as usual.more pork chop politics.and with this state legislature,the ones to suffer will be us rank and file workers and the small business owners.

  16. Michael Says:

    “Kaffee (Neil): I want the truth!
    Col. Jessep (Mufi): [shouts] You can’t handle the truth!”
    from a Few Good Men.

    Would be interesting to see lingle moderate the next debate between Democrats and Republicans.
    Since she was governor to ask what difference each candidate would make to Hawaii. Would have been interesting if she was the moderator for Francis and Neil in this recent debate. she would set center stage, rather than hanneman being that he is so tall. lingle in the middle. Who would be on her right or left? From that we would have an idea who she favors, the right or left?

  17. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Didn’t even know that there was going to be a debate until I read David’s report late last night. Pretty much stopped “reading” what passes for a Downtown Daily after the merger except the sports section. Too much work clicking back & forth plus the flashing ads seem to trigger sort of eyeball spasms.

    Did the audience really get out of control?

  18. kailuaresident Says:

    The Mayors do not have the power to exempt properties. Only Councils can do so. You need to learn more about City laws….

  19. HaleiwaJoe Says:

    Great slugfest to watch in person.

    No KO. Mufi on points

    FYI If you were sitting in the center section reserved for people who were supposedly neutral, the real distraction was not the booing It was when the Abercrombie people got agitated and started tapping their canes and rolling ther walkers.

  20. jaded Says:

    From Sec. 8-1.3 of Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, covering the Real Property Tax division:

    “(i) Recommendations for Legislation. To recommend to the mayor such amendments, changes or modifications of the provisions of this chapter or any applicable state statutes as may seem proper or necessary to remedy injustice or irregularity, or to facilitate the assessment of property under this chapter.
    (j) Report to Mayor. To report to the mayor annually, and at such other times and in such manner as the mayor may require, concerning the acts and doings and the administration of the director’s department, and such other matters or information concerning real property taxation as may be deemed of general interest; the mayor shall transmit copies of such reports to the council within 30 days of receipt.”

    It’s pretty clear that the division has a direct reporting relationship to the Office of the Mayor.

  21. Bad facts get worse Says:

    How can City Council members like Kobayashi and Cachola continue to claim they didn’t know that properties had been reclassified and faced higher tax bills?

    After all, they started voting on Bill 6 back in January, a month after Kobayashi and other effected property owners received notice of the reclassifications.

    Testimony sent to each council member from constituents made it very clear what the issue was:

    Click to access 53c66htf.pdf

    The council could have made Bill 6 remedy the tax increases this year, rather than next.

    Perhaps some thought certain conflicts of interest would become too obvious if they did so, and that exploiting the issue for political purposes was more important than addressing the concerns of constituents.

    It’s time for reporters to really start digging on this one. Nodding your head while a politician talks to your camera at a dog-and-pony-show press conference, and shamelessly distorts facts on public record, is not journalism.

  22. charles Says:

    You would think that prior to the debate the director would have laid out the ground rules to the audience; that is, no heckling, booing, cheering, yelling, etc.

    It’s a debate not a wrestling match.

  23. jaded Says:

    @Bad facts get worse,

    “How can City Council members like Kobayashi and Cachola continue to claim they didn’t know that properties had been reclassified and faced higher tax bills?”

    Using your argument, how can MUFI continue to claim that he didn’t know that the properties in question had been reclassifed and faced higher tax bills when the Real Property Tax division reports directly to the Office of the Mayor?

  24. jayz43 Says:

    Jaded said @Bad facts get worse: “Using your argument, how can MUFI continue to claim that he didn’t know that the properties in question had been reclassifed and faced higher tax bills when the Real Property Tax division reports directly to the Office of the Mayor?”

    Perhaps Hannemann can just blame it on Brennon Morioka.

  25. jaded Says:


    Your post clearly represents the arrogant mean-spiritedness that characterizes Mufi and his campaign. While you pay your sign wavers, canvassers, and phone bankers, Neil’s campaign is fully staffed by dedicated volunteers, many of them who are elderly. They all have stories about how Neil was the only one who helped them in the past, and they want to give back by helping out the campaign in any way they can.

    One of Neil’s volunteers spent her own money to make buttons that said, “Mufi is for Mufi” and “Neil is for US”. That pretty much defines the difference between the two campaigns for us.

    I don’t have the final count of sign wavers that gathered at the Blaisdell before the KGMB debate, but it was pretty obvious that the white shirts outnumbered your red shirts by a mile and beyond. The earlier KHON debate had nearly 300 volunteers sign waving for Neil vs. 30 of your hired hands. The difference is that Neil’s volunteers all WANT to be there and they all come from all walks of life. We’re clearly the underdogs, but what we lack in money, we make up for it with our hearts.

  26. This just in Says:

    Kobayashi acknowledges she owns residential property zoned commercial but can’t remember if she was notified that the classification was changed back in December, a month before her cabana boy introduced legislation that will qualify her for a hefty tax break.

    I guess she also can’t remember why she didn’t mention her conflict of interest when she held a “news conference” down the street from it to stir up the drama so Abercrombie could harp on it at the debate the next day.

    And I guess the “newspaper” that got took didn’t bother to ask her about it.

  27. jaded Says:

    Mufi is the one who needs to explain why he is claiming ignorance, shirking his oversight responsibilities and dumping all the blame on the tax assessors when the Real Property Tax division directly reports to the Office of the Mayor.

  28. Young Street Blues Says:

    Last I checked, Mufi had a whole city to run and didn’t own a Young Street apartment building like Mommy Dearest, who voted four times to give herself a nice tax break next year because she knew what was coming and didn’t care if anyone else got hurt.

    Annnnny! You got some ‘splaining to do!

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