Cayetano Calls Dan Inouye “Out Of Touch” in Mayoral Debate

Left to right: Ben Cayetano, Peter Carlisle, Kirk Caldwell
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BY JIM DOOLEY – Honolulu’s three mayoral candidates met Wednesday evening in their first debate of the election season, with the city’s $5.3 billion rapid transit project getting most of their attention.

Left to right: Ben Cayetano, Peter Carlisle, Kirk Caldwell

Mayor Peter Carlisle and former City Managing Director Kirk Caldwell, rail supporters, repeatedly stressed the importance of the project for the city’s future, while former Governor Ben Cayetano called the massive undertaking a wasteful and misguided extravagance.


Carlisle and Caldwell argued that the underlying finances of the rail plan are solid, citing the firm support for the project from federal officials, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

“He’s out of touch, as far as I’m concerned,” Cayetano said of Inouye.

Inouye is the single most influential political figure in Hawaii, wielding enormous clout in Washington and at home in the Islands.

But Cayetano didn’t hold back.

“Senator Inouye has been listening to the government. He’s never listened to the people,” Cayetano said.

“Senator Inouye is up at the 30,000-foot level, dealing with national and international affairs. The senator should take time to go down to McDonalds, to talk to the retirees who go there to eat breakfast because it’s cheap,” said Cayetano.

Inouye’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Peter Boylan, Thursday declined comment other than to say: “Comments that mean-spirited and negative really don’t deserve a response”

Caldwell, a former Inouye aide, came to the senator’s defense in the debate, saying he senator’s connections with local voters were displayed recently when Caldwell and Inouye, and their wives, shared a meal at Kabuki Restaurant.

“It’s a good local place where people come in, construction workers and others, city workers. They all came up and said ‘hi’ to him. Before he left he went around and shook hands,” Caldwell said.

“This man, who’s in his 80’s, is totally engaged and committed to this community and knows people at all levels,” said Caldwell.

On other subjects, the candidates sometimes agreed, sometimes not.

Moderator Steve Petranik asked their feelings about three large proposed residential developments: Hoopili in West Oahu, Koa Ridge in Central Oahu and Envision Laie near the North Shore.

Caldwell said he favored all three; Carlisle expressed concerns about the North Shore project and Cayetano said he opposes Hoopili and has misgivings about Envision Laie.

On the site of Honolulu’s next garbage landfill, Carlisle said no decision is close to being made. Caldwell scorned the city’s recent mishandling of a survey of possible sites. Cayetano said the corrected results of that survey, which slightly favored the Kahuku area, was an “odd choice” because of its distance from the urban core and its narrow access roads.

Carlisle, a career prosecutor who was elected mayor in 2010, told the audience that he has worked to improve the city’s financial situation and is dedicated to bettering the quality of life in Honolulu.

“I can honestly tell you that this job is the highlight of my career,” Carlisle said, adding that he is working to make Honolulu “a lean, clean, smart city.”

Caldwell said his past government service, coupled with his experience in the business world as a private attorney, make him the best-qualified candidate. He hinted that Carlisle has been disengaged and said Cayetano has been “creating bogeymen to try to scare people” about the rail project.

Cayetano said his years of service as governor and legislator have convinced him that the city needs to concentrate its efforts and finances on the deteriorating infrastructure. And he described Carlisle and Caldwell as “potted plants” because of their deference to Inouye.

The debate was sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii. It was videotaped and will be broadcast on the Olelo   community television station.

The broadcasts can be seen at:

5/7 at 12:30pm channel 49
5/8 at 9:30am Channel 49
5/9 at 1:30pm Channel 49
5/11 at 6:00pm Channel 54
The debate can also be viewed online anytime at the following link:




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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at


  1. Let’s see…for the past ten years Daniel Inouye has been the most powerful U.S. Senator in the country, immersed in every issue of our times, while Cayetano has been retired, seldom roaming from his mountain-top mansion above Hawaii Loa. Which one is most likely “out of touch.”

  2. As Keith posts, Senator Dan has been the most powerful U.S. Senator in the country, immersed in every issue of our time – on a national level. However, Ben has been here at home, seeing day to day what has been going on locally, and what has not. Those in DC live in a different world and haven’t been in touch with the struggles that most of us face at home on a daily basis in decades.

    Rail (as it is currently planned) will be the final nail that seals our coffin and relegates the people of Hawaii to mere caretakers and slaves to obscene financial pit that is rail. Too many facts have been buried by the pro-rail side and the stench of their dishonesty of the costs and where the funding will really be coming from is getting to point where we are getting nauseous from it.

    • Your rhetoric is getting a little over the top…”stench of their dishonesty?” Ben is no blast of Frebreze. He placed second to Jeremy Harris in the illegal campaign contribution sweepstakes with the old BRT contractors. And, in my humble opinion still owes the Campaign Spending Commission over $500,000. Your subjective sense of smell reminds me of an old John Pritchett cartoon where Ben is on the golf course handing out no bid contracts to his buddies while Bud Smyser, portrayed as an old bloodhound, says….”I can’t smell a thing.”

      • Inouye: “In these serious times there is no need for personal attacks”.
        Wasn’t it Senator Inouye who said: “It will take World War III to stop the project.”?!
        Inouye’s damning proclamation is reason enough for Kalihi boy Cayetano’s sharp rebuke and his thinly-veiled challenge to, “throw down”, or in local parlance, “Time fo’ beef already!”
        Inouye is all about Big Business, Cayetano is for the locals who are struggling big-time in these serious times. Inouye used to work for his constituency, now he is bed with Big Business.
        Daniel Inouye has forsaken the very people who he was elected to represent.

        Oh, and that “stench of dishonesty” really emanated from the “I look like you, you look like me” fellow, who is mysteriously invisible in the ongoing rail debate, while the stench continues to waft with the Carlisle Administration. Perhaps an all-points “Missing Politican” bulletin should be issued by HPD.

  3. Cayetano wins in November, game over for rail. Hopefully, the sunk costs can be mitigated to a minimum.

  4. Over the top? Hardly, there is no getting around the constant barrage of disinformation, distortion and chum of outright lies the pro-rail side is serving up for public consumption. It stinks, pure and simple. Just follow the money…

  5. Inouye is out of touch and I give Ben credit for having the courage to say it. God Bless Inouye for all his service to the country, but the truth is he is all about pork barrell politics. He brings home the bacon and we in Hawaii are all too happy to eat it. The problem is he is good at doing what all politicians do—spending other people’s money. The rail is a classic example. It will cost $50,000 per foot and do nothing to solve the traffic problem. It will not solve the traffic in Hawaii Kai, on the windward side, Waianae, or even Central Oahu. It will only serve a small segment of the population, but at a monster expense to all. Inouye doesn’t care because it isn’t his money. Yes, he brought home the bacon, but who is ultimately going to be paying for it. Us, you , me, and everyone else. Ben is by no means perfect, and I’m sure he’d be the first to say that. But at least he is not a potted plant, sitting idly by while others continue wasting money that isn’t theirs.

    • H-3 and the Kalanianaole Highway widening didn’t do anything for traffic in West Oahu, but those taxpayers had to help pay for it. I don’t buy your “we got ours…screw the other side of the island “argument.

  6. If Inouye believes rail in its current state is good for Oahu he is sadly out of touch. Cayetano is right and has my vote.

    • I don’t agree with you, but admire your choice to use your real name, get to the point and not engage in the ridiculous vilification of other people.

  7. Cayetano is only using anti-rail as a political springboard, perhaps viagra, and as I’ve said before if he fails to defeat rail he won’t bow out from running for a second term but partake. Don’t put your stock in Cayetano, he’s what we refer to as a flea on a different dog.

  8. Except for one electrion, I’ve voted in every Hawaii election since Statehood. I have NEVER voted for Inouye. Ben is right, Inouye only cares for his big time friends, not the people of Hawaii. The only thing I give Inouye credit for is ramming through the H3 project. Yes, RAMMING through the project through Congress. Remember, the H3 is the only Federally funded project that is exempt from all environmental laws. Name something significant Inouye has done for Hawaii. Rember now, I said significant. Not small time, Mickey Mouse projects. He even got funds for a school in Israel. If there ever has been a “God Father” of Hawaii politics, that’s Inouye.

  9. Pro railers and political “insiders” have gone too far with this.
    Forget pork barrell politicss, this is just pulled pork and crybaby tactics.
    Ben respects Sen. Inouye, clearly, and this is just a political gimmick by those who want to smear Ben.
    Read and listen to what Ben said; it is not a personal attack nor is it mean spirited.
    We have different candidates running because they do not agree on all things.
    Ben tells it like it is, hurt feelings do not belong in the arena.
    Let’s move on to the issues and stop all this political drivel.

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