The campaign of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on Monday quickly squashed a last-minute debate proposal from opponent Charles Djou.
The idea was to have the two campaigns pony up $5,000 each to pay for 30 minutes of airtime Saturday on KITV.
Djou argued that a joint televised debate was necessary, given the sharp differences in the candidates’ positions, especially on the Honolulu rail project, homelessness and ethics.
“The people have called for more debates between the mayoral candidates, and I agree,” Djou said.
But Lex Smith, Caldwell’s campaign chair, flat-out rejected the idea.
“Countless people have already voted and this is nothing more than another of Charles’ campaign stunts,'” he said.
Smith said the proposal came “at the 11th hour and out of desperation.”
“KITV is not sanctioning the debate and this is nothing but another absurd idea that does not serve the public interest, only his own,” he said, adding that Djou was seeking to air “an infomercial.”
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Mike Darrah, KITV’s new director, acknowledged that the Djou campaign was interested in having the 30-minute forum. KITV is a Civil Beat media partner.
At a press conference late Monday, Djou said KITV would provide a moderator, and that the forum would be identical to the KITV-Civil Beat-sponsored debate held during the primary between Djou, Caldwell and former Mayor Peter Carlisle.
Djou said his campaign approached KGMB and KHON last week as well as KITV about a debate. All three stations had previously rejected holding such a forum before the general election, an exception to the usual practice.
When KITV expressed interest Sunday, said Djou, his campaign reached out Monday to the Caldwell campaign.
Djou first raised the proposal publicly at what was supposed to be a Filipino Press Club of Hawaii mayoral debate Monday morning at Max’s of Manila Restaurant off Dillingham Boulevard.
“We need a live TV debate,” Djou told the audience of perhaps a dozen people. “The mayor himself has called for it. It’s important to show the real differences between these campaigns.”
Caldwell was a no-show at Max’s of Manila, though both Djou and the press club said Caldwell had committed to be there. Djou criticized the mayor’s absence.
Asked about the event, Caldwell campaign spokesperson Glenna Wong said, “Our campaign was not aware of today’s Filipino forum until last evening.”
But the Djou campaign produced a short video indicating that the Filipino Press Club expected Caldwell to be at the debate.
Filipino Press Club President Rick Agnes confirmed the invitation acceptance, although he added that the mayor told him Friday that he might have a scheduling conflict. Still, the debate was held with the expectation that Caldwell might show up.
Debates over the mayoral debates have been constant during the Honolulu mayoral campaign this year. Both camps have accused the other of dropping out of joint appearances.
The last joint appearance of both candidates was held Sunday at the Chinese Cultural Plaza. The occasion was a candidate forum sponsored by the Chinese Community Action Coalition.
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