Honolulu Mayoral Candidates Trade Barbs Over Canceled Debate
JULY 7, 2016 by Chad Blair – Civil Beat
UPDATED: Kirk Caldwell says Charles Djou’s nonparticipation “reflects poorly” on him, but the challenger says he never confirmed his appearance.
UPDATED: The first broadcast forum featuring the top three contenders for Honolulu mayor is now a no-go.
Due to a scheduling conflict, Charles Djou said he is unable to attend the Hawaii Public Radio debate that was scheduled for Monday evening.
That prompted Mayor Kirk Caldwell to issue a press release Thursday.
“Charles’ cancellation certainly reflects poorly on a candidate who claims he can step into a 24/7/365 job running a City with nearly one million citizens,” said Caldwell in the statement. “After committing to something as important as a public debate where voters have an opportunity to judge for themselves who is the best candidate for the Mayor of Honolulu, and then backing out at the last minute, shows that here is someone who is clearly not ready to make a sincere effort and talk about real issues.”
Djou’s press secretary, Jon Kunimura, said in a press release that Djou’s attendance at the forum “was never confirmed because of miscommunication as to the date of the forum.”
“This appears to be an attempt by Caldwell to distract attention from the serious mismanagement issues facing the City, including the ongoing sewage spill at Kewalo basin,” Kunimura added.
Update: In a later statement, the Caldwell’s campaign said that the spill was a state matter, not a city one.
Caldwell said, “Things like this matter, because it says much about someone who speaks before getting the facts. Knowing the differences between the state and county are essential elements of being a leader of this city. Making wild accusations diminishes a reasoned discussion. It is unfortunate Charles decided to issue statements based on faulty assumptions.”
Asked why he couldn’t change his other plans for Monday, Djou said, “I could not cancel. I had a longstanding personal commitment on that particular day.”
Djou said he never confirmed the forum date with Hawaii Public Radio.
“So, from our perspective, I didn’t back out of anything,” he said.
— Hawaii Public Radio (@wearehpr) July 8, 2016
HPR News Director Bill Dorman declined comment, except to confirm that the forum has been canceled.
The station’s website also said this: “Charles Djou withdrew from the event, several days after his campaign agreed to take part. Sam Aiona of the Djou campaign blames a scheduling conflict, although he had confirmed Djou’s participation on Friday. Djou told HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka the cancellation was because of a ‘miscommunication.’”
It is unclear whether the forum will be rescheduled.
HPR sent out a press release earlier this week promoting the forum and stating that Djou, Caldwell and Peter Carlisle, the former mayor and city prosecutor, would be participating.
Told of Djou’s non-participation, Carlisle said, “I was willing to participate in HPR’s mayoral forum on Monday and now that is not going to happen.”
Djou has agreed to participate in eight mayoral forums and debates over the next five weeks leading to the Aug. 13 primary. They include a KITV-Civil Beat televised event July 28.
Kunimura said the Djou campaign has not yet confirmed mayoral debates with Hawaii News Now and KHON. Carlisle’s campaign confirmed four debate or forum appearances but did not list the three commercial television stations.
It was unclear whether Caldwell had agreed to the same forums as Djou and Carlisle. A spokeswoman did not respond to an inquiry.
Carlisle has agreed to participate with Djou in a Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association forum July 14 at the Blaisdell Center. The group’s website said as of Thursday that all three candidates are confirmed.
There are eight other candidates running for mayor of Honolulu. If no candidate earns 50 percent of the vote plus one, the top two vote-getters will advance to the November general election.