By B.J. Reyes
State Democrats gathered Sunday for their traditional post-primary Unity Breakfast, an effort to come together and mend any fences that may have been damaged in spirited primary contest.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the titular head of the state party, noted that although the Honolulu mayoral race is non-partisan, the vote comes down to two staunch Democrats: former Gov. Ben Cayetano and former City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell.
“We’ve got good Democrats that are running for mayor right now,” Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie and Cayetano have been friends and political allies since their days together in the state Legislature and he wrote the introduction to Cayetano’s autobiography. Abercrombie also has gotten to know Caldwell, who once represented the same Manoa district in the state House as Abercrombie.
Although he knows both well he has shied away from making an endorsement in the race. But he did have a message for those who would seek to continue running attack ads in the race.
“Now this situation with rail will work out one way or another, but I’ll tell you one thing that I am not going to stand for, and I hope nobody stands for it here. This business of denouncing other people’s character has got to stop. We’ve got two Democrats that are running right now. We’ve got a situation in which there are outside parties that are coming and trying to denounce the character of Ben Cayetano in this. And I won’t stand for it. It’s a lie. It’s s slander and it’s not worthy of anybody in this party to be associated with it.
… I hope today that all of us are going to take a pledge, in terms of unity, that we are going to say to people, ‘There’s no place in Hawaii for personal denunciation and character assassination in our elections.’
The Pacific Resource Partnership, an advocacy group for contractors and unionized carpenters and construction workers, is behind a campaign called “Read Ben’s Record,” which raised the issue of more than $500,000 in illegal campaign donations made to Cayetano during his last run for governor.
The state Campaign Spending Commission cleared Cayetano of any wrongdoing, and Cayetano accused PRP of orchestrating a smear campaign against him.
“That was impromptu on his part,” Cayetano said of Abercrombie’s message, adding:
I didn’t expect it but, yeah, I think that he knows me and so I think it was a good message. But you know what? PRP can spend all the money they want – they can spend another $1 million, $2 million. I think the people have figured them out already and in the end, after this election, win or lose, we’re gonna hold these guys accountable.
The PRP ads are classified as independent expenditures and are not coordinated with a campaign or campaign committee.
Caldwell said he also thought Abercrombie’s message was good, noting that he has tried to stay above personal attacks in all of his campaigns.
Caldwell stopped short of publicly denouncing the PRP ads, but said:
I think the governor has a good message. I have never said anything personally about any of my opponents ever in any race and I haven’t run in that many. … For me it’s about doing good. You don’t do good by talking stink or being negative. I’ve never made any personal comments on any of my opponents and I’m not going to be doing so good forward either.
I am not going to coordinate or talk about what someone else is doing. It’s not appropriate for me to do so, so I’m focusing on me. I’m going to talk about what I’m going to do, just like I have in the primary. I’m going to do that in the general.