BY JIM DOOLEY – Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Mazie Hirono and Ed Case engaged in their last
scheduled public debate Thursday night, stressing familiar campaign themes but addressing new topics including drone warfare and Supreme Court litmus tests.
The hour-long roundtable televised exchange on PBS Hawaii television was moderated by host Dan Boylan.
Boylan began the evening by asking each candidate‘s position on Honolulu’s rapid transit fixed rail project which would be partially funded by $1.5 billion in federal financing.
Each said they support the project but warned that the outcome of this year’s Honolulu mayoral could have a profound effect on the federal government’s financial commitment to the project.
Former governor Ben Cayetano is running for mayor on an anti-rail platform while Mayor Peter Carlisle and
former city Managing Director Kirk Caldwell are pro-rail candidates.
“If the mayor’s races turns out that Gov. Cayetano is elected, I think we have to consider that a referendum on rail,” said Case.
Such an outcome would clearly undermine federal support for the project and lead to “a pretty dicey time for the Hawaii congressional delegation,” Case said.
“I think that quite possibly all bets will be off,” Hirono said.
The candidates jabbed at each other’s political styles.
Case called Hirono’s politics “far left extreme.”
Hirono riposted that she favors a “collaborative” leadership style
The primary election “is not about left or right,” Hirono said. “As far as I’m concerned it’s about right or wrong. I’m focusing on doing the right thing. “
Boylan asked the pair if they would apply a “litmus test” to prospective Supreme Court justices.
Hirono said she would only favor a nominee “who can be fair,” adding that the current Supreme Court, dominated by Republican-appointed justices, has been issuing “ideologically-driven decisions.”
Case said he would look for “a superior legal ability” coupled with fairness and a recognitions of “the proper role of the Supreme Court in our system … that Congress needs to take the lead with the President on major policy issues.”
When Boylan asked Hirono her opinion on the United States’ increasing use of unmanned aerial drones as weapons of war, said she had misgivings about the trend.
“I have some concerns about it (and) setting some parameters,” she said.
Case’s answer: “It’s something that has to be thought through but I’ve got no basic fundamental problem with utilizing drones.”
When questioned about how he would combat Republican candidate Linda Lingle’s clearly superior financial strength, Case said he would respond with “grassroots and message.”
He said he thinks “voters out there are wise to Linda Lingle. I think they are not going to let this election get bought by anybody.”
Hirono said, “In the general election, you’re going to need to have the resources, you’re going to need to have a team that knows how to win these elections and you need the grassroots. I’m happy to say that I’m running a very strong campaign with thousands of people from Hawaii who are helping me, contributing to me.”
Hirono and Case faced off this week at a forum on Maui, in a radio debate Wednesday night and again Thursday evening on public television.
Hirono has declined Case’s repeated requests to debate him on commercial television with the widest possible viewing audience.
“Mazie’s plan is to basically go dark on any debates, any joint appearances for the next 58 days,” he said.
“I really hope you change your mind in the next 58 days because I think the voters deserve that,” Case told Hirono.
She responded: “The voters deserve a senator who shares their values and who stands with them. And I have a record that exemplifies that.”