By Laurie Au
Mayor Mufi Hannemann and his challenger City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi clashed tonight in their most contentious debate. The format allowed for more back-and-forth between the two candidates, but some portions of the debate added little to the discussion and sometimes took the focus away from the issues.
Probably the most bizarre segment of the night was the “Lightning Round,” where KGMB9 News anchor Keahi Tucker asked the candidates quick questions and expected short answers.
“Constitutional Convention, yes or no?” Tucker asked both. A confident “no” from both candidates without explanation.
“You were a Republican before switching the Democratic Party,” Tucker said to Kobayashi. “Rank Gov. Linda Lingle: A, B, C, D, or F.”
“I think an ‘A,’” Kobayashi responded. On Republican vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a “C.” Hannemann, who has clahsed with Lingle, gave Lingle a “passing grade, a B.”
But then there were some strange ones, like “What’s your favorite Web site, not including your own?” and to Hannemann, “Do you fly first class because you’re so tall?” (Hannemann likes Google; Kobayashi likes food sites, though couldn’t name one, and travel sites. And sometimes Hannemann flies on coach, sometimes first class.)
The final debate, which also featured the Big Island and Kauai county mayoral candidates, was held at the Hawaii Theatre in front of a live audience. It was hosted by KGMB9 News and The Honolulu Advertiser, and sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
Tonight’s debate also included updates from KGMB9 reporter Howard Dicus and Honolulu Advertiser deputy local news editor Fernando Pizarro, who were monitoring Twitter feeds and e-mailed questions. They picked the viewer questions to ask the candidates.
Two questions from viewers were on Hannemann’s proposed rail transit system and potential homeless sleeping in stations and on the future of Waimanalo Gulch Landfill.
But then, as Dicus prefaced it, one from left field. “Would either of you support building a bridge running across Pearl Harbor?”
And, “What would you do about the dilapidated piers of Keehi (Lagoon) Boat Harbor?”
Dan Boylan, a political analyst for KGMB9, was asked who the winner of the debate was — also in front of the candidates.
Boylan gave probably the best answer he could without getting glares from the candidates standing near him, declining to declare a clear winner.
“I thought we saw a very spirited debate,” Boylan said. “I think the voters are the winners. They got the opportunity to do some comparison shopping. I wish the candidates agreed to do it in four or five different places. I wish we had a mayoral campaign debate commission like the presidential campaign debate commission.”