LIHUE — It’s a novelty that’s caught the national eye. Hawaii’s gubernatorial contest is billed as a three-way race with nary an incumbent involved.
Democratic State Sen. David Ige, fresh off his August primary trouncing of Gov. Neil Abercrombie, looks like the front-runner in the run for the governor’s seat, although Duke Aiona, a Republican former lieutenant governor, and Independent Mufi Hannemann, a former mayor of Honolulu, have battled every inch of the way along the campaign trial.
A fourth candidate, Libertarian Jeff Davis, is also running.
While it’s a unique race that the Washington Post and The New York Times have written about, what do Kauaians think about it? Depends on whom you ask.
“In my personal opinion, I think Aiona would bring the most experience,” said Jerry Thompson, of Eleele, who plans to vote Tuesday, although he wasn’t 100 percent sure on any of the candidates heading into the election. “I don’t have too much opinion on them at all. I personally chose Iona because he worked with Gov. (Linda) Lingle for so long as a lieutenant governor. I might be thinking wrong but the way I look at it is, if someone has been in politics and has demonstrated themselves at the lower leadership, then they know the ins and the outs of how day-to-day business runs. If you get someone new in there, it takes a long time to get them orientated and that is a lot of waste.”
Valerie Willman also supports Aiona, who has served in the Legislature since 1986, because, in part, of his attention to the Neighbor Islands.
“I think he is a really good man and he has demonstrated his care for Kauai by frequently coming over here and being part of major events like the Mayor’s Prayer Luncheon every year,” the Eleele resident said. “So I am excited about him possibly being elected to that position.”
Willman said Aiona would be a refreshing, conservative change of pace over Abercrombie, who called a special session to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage, which ultimately passed last year.
“We’ve been surprised at some of the results so far for our current governor, so we’ll see,” she said. “We have been praying as a church and as a body of Christ. We are a godly people and I encourage those people of Christ to get out there and vote those people of Christ in.”
Ige, who is supported by Hawaii’s two most powerful labor unions and beat Abercrombie in the primary with 66 percent of the vote, has his backing on Kauai, too.
Jeff Tucker said Ige’s opponents don’t have much of a chance. Tucker added that Kauai issues, however, don’t resonate during state races compared to Oahu’s issue, yet he still supported the blue ticket, as did Adam Prall. Prall didn’t have much of an opinion on Ige, who supports same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to choose an abortion, until they crossed paths on the campaign trail.
“I got to meet him at the farm fair and the more I got to know everyone, I became a fan,” Prall said.
Abraham Machado, shopping in Puhi Sunday, agreed. He said Aiona’s part in being unable to get the Superferry concept off the ground and the budget-saving attempt, Furlough Fridays, showed that the Republican ticket is lacking leadership.
“Aiona had his chance with Gov. Linda Lingle, but they hung themselves with the Superferry and the furloughs,” he said. Machado is supporting Ige.
But Rudy Sina, of Lihue, said he thinks that the other underdog, third-party candidate Hannemann, has something to offer. He said all three candidates vying for the spot seem worthy.
“There is a lot of creativity, even on the part of Hannemann. He has a lot of business ideas. No question about that,” he said. “Both of them (Ige and Aiona) are doing good as far as presenting their cases. The problem is that they’re slinging mud at each other, and whether it is true or not, it has to be expanded to be made so people are really understanding what they are saying.
“You really don’t know — one thing is good here, one thing is good there. I wish we could put it all together into one person, but you cannot,” he added.
Staff writers Dennis Fujimoto, Tom LaVenture and Nick Celario contributed to this report.