On Monday, July 2, candidates for contested offices in the State of Hawai‘i gathered at Kamehameha Schools’ Kapalama, Oahu campus for Hawaii News Now’s “Super Debate.” Contenders for the offices of Lieutenant Governor, 1st U.S. Congressional District Representative, and Governor took the stage to answer questions, challenge the competition and leave a lasting impression on the audience. It was an informative night for voters, with one glaring omission.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard was absent, and there was no debate for the 2nd U.S. Congressional District. The district includes Maui and most of the state, except for urban Honolulu.
In a June 30 Honolulu Star-Advertiser article, Hawaii News Now news director Scott Humber explained that HNN had been trying for more than a month to schedule a debate with 2nd Congressional District candidates, but Gabbard declined to participate. Humber left the invitation open, stating, “It is the right thing to do for the voters.”
This debate dodging has frustrated Gabbard’s opponent in the race for a seat in Congress, Sherry Alu Campagna. “Hawaii’s voters in Congressional District 2 are restricted by mainstream media and organizations from making a fair comparison between Tulsi Gabbard and her only viable contender, Sherry Alu Campagna; a Democrat, an environmental scientist, state commissioner, Native Hawaiian, and parent of a Kamehameha Schools student,” the challenger’s camp wrote in a July 2 statement.
“Furthermore, this subversive form of censorship blocks the democratic process during an election by prohibiting CD2 constituents from holding Tulsi Gabbard accountable for her wishy-washy voting record and alliances with foreign dictators who have committed egregious human rights violations against their people, including Modi, El Sisi, and Assad. Additionally, the exclusion of CD2 from the Super Debate underscores the fact that CD2 voters do not get the attention by politicians and the media that Honolulu does,” the statement said.
Despite making national headlines in 2016 by calling for more debates during the Democratic Primary between Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, time has shown that Rep. Gabbard’s stance is less principled than it seems at face value. Gabbard pulled the same evasive maneuver in 2016, when she refused to debate her opponent, Maui democrat Shay Chan Hodges.
Gabbard, who once said, “More and more people on the ground from states across the country are calling for more debates, are wanting to have this transparency and this greater engagement in our democratic process,” on MSNBC, according to a Huffington Post story, later told previous MauiTime Editor Anthony Pignataro regarding Chan Hodges’ request for four debates: “In response to your question, the campaign does not plan to comment on or respond to Ms. Chan-Hodges’ demands.”
No need to comment; the hypocrisy is worth a thousand words.
Erika Tsuji, a spokeswoman for Gabbard, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Rep. Gabbard’s priorities lay elsewhere, and that the congresswoman is “spending the limited precious time she’s able to be home with her constituents, discussing issues of importance with them, including difficulties they are having due to the recent natural disasters on Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii island, especially the victims of the Puna lava flow, as well as fulfilling her National Guard service requirements.”
I’d question any time an elected official’s “priorities” restrict them from public accountability and transparency. More likely, as Hawai‘i’s second-most popular politician, Rep. Gabbard is coasting on fame. She controls the narrative with the reach of her incumbency and popularity, and eliminates challenges by directing constituents to carefully crafted social media messages and photo-ops. In her position, she has nothing to gain from a debate, but the world to lose.
Unfortunately, however, it’s the voters of the 2nd Congressional District of Hawai‘i who lose an opportunity to engage in democracy, hold an elected official accountable, and make better-informed voting decisions.
As Tulsi herself has said, debates are an issue of “democracy, of freedom of speech and defending that which so many have sacrificed and given their lives for.” And, as Sherry Alu Campagna stated, “Blocking debates from happening, through non-participation, is the opposite of democracy.”
Photo: Defense Department
Poll 7/5/2018: Public Debates and Candidates: Should Tulsi Gabbard participate in the debate?
Why or Why not?
Jul 10 2018 10:06 AM Stop hiding
Jul 09 2018 8:02 PM The other side is just a grudge match because Tulsi backed Bernie. Get over it.
Jul 08 2018 7:02 PM We need a update on her views and what her focus will be on as she represents us here in hawaii I personally would like to know how she will address the high cost of living on maui and how she will find a solution to the homeless problem that is creatimg
Jul 08 2018 11:50 AM “I’m a fan of Tulsi Gabbard but still believe she should have debated her opponent. While it obviously is not beneficial for Gabbard’s campaign efforts to debate her opponent it still would be better for the people to have this kind of opportunity to hear both candidates discuss their views and ideas.
I don’t like it when other candidates refuse to debate and I won’t make excuses for Gabbard either. “
Jul 08 2018 9:26 AM No need.
Jul 07 2018 10:09 PM TULSIs challenger is an unknown who wants to become better known through a debate. Tulsi runs a positive campaign with experience and real platforms to help people. Campagna runs a negative campaign with no platform so we don’t want to hear her smears.
Jul 07 2018 8:49 PM No. Ms. Campagna just wants to criticize Tulsi Gabbard and get her 15 minutes of fame. Sherry should have run for local office if she wanted to focus on “local” issues.
Jul 07 2018 5:28 PM Voters deserve to hear and compare our elected officials debate and challenges each other before we vote.
Jul 07 2018 4:55 PM Absolutely! I’m tired of reading about her support of dictators like Assad and Modi – meeting with them even! – and now for the second time refusing to debate her challenger. I want her to report to us, her constituents – not to see her in photo ops for her national ambitions.
Jul 07 2018 5:04 AM Not sure what she is afraid of?
Jul 07 2018 12:05 AM She criticized Hillary for not publicly debating Bernie but she thinks it’s okay that she, herself is too good to debate Sherry. Seems like a double standard to me.
Jul 06 2018 8:08 PM A debate would help inform the voters of Hawaii.
Jul 06 2018 5:29 PM not necessary
Jul 06 2018 2:53 PM “TUSLI GABBARD MARKED FOR WHITE WASHING”
Jul 06 2018 12:39 PM She’s being a hypocrite. She made a huge stink about the 2016 primary debates where 5! were scheduled, and she won’t do 1? It’s just hypocritical
Jul 06 2018 12:27 PM Yes she should
Jul 06 2018 6:08 AM As her constituent. I want to hear both candidates speak on issues that concern the people. I want her to explain why she should keep my vote. I heard Sherry. She’s great. I’d like Tulsi to have this debate, she owes this to her constiuents. I’d like to hear her thoughts.
Jul 06 2018 5:04 AM “I’m seeing too many non-factual smears and dirty tactics coming out of the Campagna campaign. If we could stick to factual information only, and the policy needs of HI and the US, I’d be ok with debate. But giving a public platform to present non-truths and political smears motivated by some hidden agenda, no. Such a debate would not serve the interests of the people of HI and the US. “
Jul 05 2018 9:15 PM No. Campagna has been a lazy candidate who has not shown she is willing to do the hard work of getting grass roots support, knocking on doors and talking about the issues. She is trying to coast on Tulsi’s coattails to get free publicity.
Jul 05 2018 7:17 PM So the voters can see who is fest to represent them.
Jul 05 2018 4:47 PM Tulsi goes to Syria to talk to Assad…. It’s like a US politician going to Germany to speak to Hitler during World War II… WTH??! Tulsi’s sense of entitlement and self-righteousness is nauseating. We appealed to her in November 2017 to intervene on behalf of the desecration of burials in the Maui Lani development… No word… We are still waiting… #NAGPRA #VOTESHERRY
Jul 05 2018 4:15 PM “I am happy to see Tulsi doing her job helping the people she works for and not having to debate an unqualified opponent who has no clear or groundbreaking platform.”
Jul 05 2018 2:37 PM “Incumbents pretty regularly avoid debates because they can only lose votes. There is no upside. Example: Arakawa skipped the Kula Community Association debate for Kahului Council Seat (and wisely so, he would have been tared and feathered, but he could still win the vote).
That said, the champ needs to defend the title. Hiding is not a characteristic of a leader.”
Should Tulsi Gabbard participate in a public debate with Sherry Alu Campagna? Vote and leave a comment below for a chance to appear in print! #coconutpoll
Take The Poll: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tulsigabbard