State Sen. Clayton Hee showed up at a candidate forum in Kailua-Kona Tuesday.
Turns out he was the only candidate running for lieutenant governor who accepted the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s invitation.
Hee, a Democrat, is running against Shan Tsutsui, the incumbent appointed to the job some 20 months ago after Brian Schatz was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
But Tsutsui, a former colleague of Hee’s in the Legislature, has declined four appearances with Hee. (Former TV reporter Mary Zanakis is also running for LG as a Democrat.)
Hee told the audience at the Kealakehe High School cafeteria that he was very disappointed that Tsutsui says he’s “too busy” to debate him.
“I can’t image what keeps a lieutenant governor so busy that he cannot spend time with the communities,” he said, “and, quite frankly, defend his record.”
Hee’s point was that the office of LG has few responsibilities. If elected, Hee wants to change that by having the LG become a “catalyst for discussion” for issues that might not “rise to the governor’s full attention.”
They include homelessness, invasive species and Native Hawaiian issues. Hee is half-Hawaiian and a former Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee.
Hee also said he wants Tsutsui to explain why the $646,000 in taxpayers’ money that supports the LG’s office has doubled to twice that amount so Tsutsui could relocate the office from Oahu to Maui, his home island.
“My question is, ‘Why is Maui better than Kona?'”
Hee argues that the LG should spend most of his or her time on Oahu, the center of government.
The Kona-Kohala Chamber invited all candidates for the LG’s office. Besides Hee, only Republican Elwin Ahu accepted, but he later canceled.
Asked by “debate” moderator Steven Petranik, editor of Hawaii Business magazine, why Hee thinks he is the best candidate for lieutenant governor, Hee said this: “Because I’m the only one here.”
The cafeteria audience showed its reaction with its applause.