Another debate about debates II

I tried last week to give Duke Aiona my best advice not to start a debate about debates against Neil Abercrombie, but he wouldn’t be denied and it put a bit of tarnish on what was otherwise a good week for the Republican candidate for governor.

The Democrat Abercrombie took the week off to recharge his batteries from his grueling primary race against Mufi Hannemann, and Aiona took advantage of it with a series of news conferences to spotlight his proposals for jobs and the economy, energy, agriculture, the environment, transportation and health care.

Abercrombie had earlier released all of his policy initiatives at once in a 45-page booklet called “A New Day in Hawaii” and was disappointed in the news coverage it got; Aiona got better media attention by spreading it over several events.

But he distracted attention from his substantive proposals by using each occasion to carp at Abercrombie for not accepting his proposal for six televised debates, making that the story — and not necessarily a favorable one for the lieutenant governor.

KITV reported that Aiona seemed clueless about his campaign’s negotiations for a debate on that station that he ultimately agreed to.

And the Maui News chided him in an editorial for accusing Abercrombie of ducking debates after himself refusing to debate his primary opponent John Carroll and ducking joint appearances with Abercrombie and Hannemann.

“It is a little disingenuous to demand that Abercrombie debate him now when Aiona ducked opportunities to do so earlier. His caginess in the primaries is coming back to bite him now,” the editorial said.

But Aiona persisted, and looked a little silly by insisting “he’s ducking, he’s definitely ducking” the same day it was revealed that both candidates had accepted through the normal channels three televised debates and three other joint appearances, with more still on the table.

In a side angle to the debate fracas, Hawaii News Now appears shut out of the gubernatorial debates for the general after all sides complained that its primary debates lacked dignity, with raucus audience participation, “lightning rounds” and an overly busy format that seemed intended to spotlight news personalities as much as the candidates.

Aiona conditionally accepted the HNN debate, but not before complaining to Star-Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge about the format, saying, “This is not a circus. It’s not entertainment.”

Spokesman Jim McCoy said Abercrombie turned down HNN and KHON mainly because he appeared in their debates in the primary and wanted to be fair and give KITV and PBS Hawaii a chance in the general.

But McCoy said the HNN format was a factor after both the Abercrombie and Hannemann camps were unhappy with the primary debate in which both candidates were heckled by supporters of the other and felt they were given too little time to answer questions.

“During pre primary debate discussions, both the Abercrombie and Hannemann campaigns opposed the ‘lightning round’ aspect, but the station wouldn’t give it up,” McCoy said. “The station stuck to its guns, saying lightning rounds and studio audiences liven a debate, but I recall both our side and Mufi’s side saying it will be lively given who the participants were.

“There were also tug of wars over time allotted  for answers, and you saw the results; candidates were cut off in mid sentence due to the red light going off.”

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6 Comments on “Another debate about debates II”

  1. WooWoo Says:


    I have been very busy the last week and I have cut TV news out of my diet temporarily. I’ll accept your take on the coverage of debate discussions. I do want to point out that saying that Aiona “ducked” Carroll is not quite a fair comparison. While Neil and Mufi debated, I do not recall seeing Art Reyes or the other guy there. An Aiona-Carroll debate would have hurt Carroll more than helped. Nobody feels good about watching somebody’s grandpa get up on stage and look bad… I say this as somebody that has had conversations with John Carroll. Better that he didn’t get more attention for his campaign.

    On the other hand, Rafael Del Castillo deserved a debate.

  2. zzzzzz Says:

    “Tug of wars,” or “tugs of war?”

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    Rope pull.

  4. waialuahaole Says:

    IDK what’s funnier — Darryl Huff of KITV being unclear on the concept of campaign staff working out logistics before presenting to their boss, or a candidate that tries to claim he’s a break from the “politics as usual” employing politics as usual when it comes to debates, and avoiding them as much as possible when ahead in the polls.

  5. shaftalley Says:

    i don’t see what aiona and abercrombie could have anything to debate about.abercrombie is already an established big gov’t./big spender politician.and aiona? well, he promises to be a big gov’t/big spending governor.and it looks like he will use swat-team goon squads to “enforce” enviromentalism GOP style.but the good news is there is money to be made if you invest in the companies that will benefit from this green energy cronyism.

  6. David Shapiro Says:

    Just for perspective, Lingle agreed to debate Iwase only once in 2006. In 2002, Lingle and Hirono debated twice on live TV.

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