Dante Carpenter, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, said he kind of feels like a referee these days in the primary for governor between former congressman Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Carpenter, who was once an Abercrombie ally in the state Senate, has vowed to stay neutral.
But that didn’t stop him from sending a blistering June 15 letter to the Hannemann campaign chiding the mayor for a series of incidents at the party’s state convention in May. The letter was first disclosed on Monday in Star-Advertiser columnist David Shapiro’s blog.
“Pure and simple, we had been in conversation with these guys for months, and they still went ahead and did what the hell they did,” Carpenter said today. “My job is to ensure, some way, somehow, the playing field is level.
“I don’t give a damn who is running for what, what position they hold. If they’re Democrats, then they comport with the rules of the game. And those are Democratic Party rules, not mine. I didn’t make them up.
“And, if they’re Democrats, they’re supposed to adhere to them. Pure and simple.”
The Hannemann campaign, not surprisingly, takes a different view of what happened at the state convention. The mayor and his advisors feared that many of the party activists and delegates most involved at the convention were Abercrombie loyalists who would subtly tip the event toward the congressman.
Here are Carpenter’s complaints, as outlined in his letter, and the responses from Elisa Yadao, an advisor to the Hannemann campaign:
*Carpenter said the Hannemann campaign chose not to sponsor a breakfast on the Sunday morning of the convention and inferred that the convention committee had not asked the campaign to hold the event. Carpenter said a request was made in October.
Yadao counters that the Hannemann campaign never committed to sponsor a breakfast.
*Carpenter said the Hannemann campaign created turmoil by hosting a party on Friday night during the time delegates were meeting to discuss resolutions. He said the campaign distributed invitations to delegates even though requests were made to keep the party separate from official convention business.
Carpenter described the party as, at best, a “distraction,” and, at worst, “disrespectful” of the core reasons delegates were meeting.
Yadao said the party, sponsored with Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, was intended as outreach and to give delegates something to do socially on the first night of the convention.
*Carpenter said tensions arose over the schedule for when Hannemann would address the convention. He said the initial agreement was 3 p.m. on Saturday, then it was switched by the convention committee to 11:45 a.m., then changed back to 3 p.m. after the campaign told planners that the mayor would be on Maui that morning.
Carpenter said Hannemann violated the agreement by speaking much longer than planned and ignored three subtle requests (“Mufi, pau”) to wrap up his remarks.
Each candidate was expected to speak for 5 minutes, with one to two minutes of “wiggle room.” The Star-Advertiser recorded both speeches: Hannemann spoke for nearly 17 minutes; Abercrombie spoke for over 11 minutes.
Yadao said the Hannemann campaign heard from the news media and others that convention planners were still saying that the mayor would be speaking in the morning even though the campaign obtained a promise in writing that the speech would go off at 3 p.m.
Yadao acknowledged that Hannemann went over his allotted time. But she said it was “hugely inconsiderate” for convention planners to make the mayor wait for 25 minutes after his scheduled speaking time to go on.
Convention planners allowed delegates to conclude debate on resolutions while the mayor waited in the wings.
“It wasn’t just an ordinary speech. It was a really important speech for him,” Yadao said.
*During Hannemann’s speech, Carpenter said, an aide to the mayor approached Hilton Hawaiian Village staff with music for the end of the speech and claimed to have authorization from the convention committee. Carpenter said the convention committee had not approved the music.
Yadao acknowledged that the Hannemann campaign asked the Hilton Hawaiian Village staff to play the music and were refused. She was not immediately able to confirm with the aide involved whether the aide claimed to have authorization.
As of Wednesday night, Yadao said, no one in the Hannemann campaign had received Carpenter’s letter.
“We didn’t even get the letter,” she said. “We had to read the letter on a blog.”