Campaigns busy as primary approaches

HONOLULU (AP) – With just two weeks remaining before Hawaii’s primary election, candidates running for governor and U.S. Congress have been facing off in debates and gathering endorsements.

In a gubernatorial debate on the Big Island, Gov. Neil Abercrombie ping-ponged between praising his opponent, state Sen. David Ige, for things they accomplished together and chastising him for having less experience with the issues. Ige said people in Hawaii have lost confidence in government and he’s giving them another choice.

Moderator Sherry Bracken suggested that the candidates might want to kiss after Abercrombie recounted how he and Ige worked together to modernize the tax-collection system.

“When we work together and things have been accomplished, I’m going to say so,” Abercrombie said.

Ige agreed, saying the state is losing lots of money in tax dollars that haven’t been collected.

“It was something that both the governor and I agreed on, that the tax modernization was long overdue,” Ige said

Ige said Abercrombie’s administration risked losing $800 million in federal transportation funds because of a project backlog.

“The federal government has put the state of Hawaii on notice that if we don’t get our act together they will take away money,” Ige said.

Abercrombie replied that the state is spending every possible dime at the maximum rate.

“There is absolutely no reason to believe that anything that you’ve just heard is anything more than just rhetoric,” he said.

Few sparks flew in a forum between six Democrats running for Congress who mostly read from prepared statements. They were more animated when several said the greatest threat to national security comes from the federal government spying on American citizens.

Kathryn Xian said that allowing the National Security Agency to conduct surveillance without a warrant damages the U.S. Constitution, meaning “the terrorists have already won.”

State Sen. Will Espero said ignorance, poverty and lack of education pose the greatest threat to security.

City Councilman Stanley Chang, who spent less time glancing at his notes than his opponents, said the greatest threat comes from “world leaders who are going rogue, who are acting like children, and who are essentially holding the rest of the world hostage to meet their demands.”

In the Senate race, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz was endorsed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest newspaper, while Rep. Colleen Hanabusa was endorsed by the Maui News.

Abercrombie was endorsed by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and launched a radio ad featuring President Barack Obama, who said Abercrombie is like family.

Former Rep. Charles Djou, a Republican candidate for U.S. House, was endorsed by Veterans in Politics International. Allan Levene, a Republican candidate for U.S. House who has run in several states, was endorsed by former Rep. Bob Barr, a Libertarian.