September 27, 2018
Democratic Gov. David Ige has accepted an invitation from KHON-TV to debate his opponent, Republican nominee and state Rep. Andria Tupola, in the race for governor but Tupola is still mulling whether to participate.
While Tupola has been pushing Ige to agree to debates since the beginning of the general election campaign season, the KHON debate would also include their lieutenant governor running mates.
This could prove a liability for Tupola given the tensions she has had with her running mate, Marissa Kerns. The two will be part of the same ticket when voters cast ballots in November.
Kerns has said that Tupola needs to apologize to the public for her voting record because it’s too liberal. On Friday evening, during a Republican fundraising dinner and the launch of the party’s general election ticket, Kerns publicly fumed over Tupola’s politics and stormed away from her VIP table several times while expressing frustration with party leadership.
Adding to the strain, Kerns is supported by the Hawaii Republican Assembly, a splinter group of the Republican Party led by Eric Ryan. Tupola was granted a three-year restraining order against Ryan in May. Ryan has called Tupola a RINO (Republican In Name Only), a “closet Democrat” and a “loser.”
Kerns told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Wednesday that she had agreed to the KHON debate and the only holdout was Tupola. She downplayed any divisions between them, but said that her own politics are “more bold.” She said she was eager for more debates with Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sen. Josh Green.
“Now they are seeing my politics, they know,” she said. “I put their backs against the wall. I went after the issues — they don’t. Again, you got to be politically savvy. You’ve got to know how in depth you are to solve problems. (Green) says he opened a clinic in Chinatown. OK. What’s that? What’s that got to do with all the failures they deliberately created?”
Kerns was referring to a center in Chinatown that provides services, including health care, to the homeless that Green helped found.
The Ige campaign had initially pushed to have all four candidates participate in the same debate. However, it now looks like Ige and Tupola would debate each other in one room while Green and Kerns would debate each other in another, said Glenna Wong, a spokeswoman for the Ige campaign.
KHON News Director Lori Silva said she didn’t want to discuss the particulars of the debate, noting that they still hadn’t received confirmations from everyone.
Tupola said that she was waiting to get more information about the format of the debate and consult with her campaign team before making a decision.
She too downplayed divisions with her running mate. “We both believe the same thing, which is Hawaii’s high cost of living is killing us,” she said. “So we have a lot in common and … we probably agree on a lot more than we disagree on.”
The KHON debate would be televised on Oct. 15 at 9 p.m., according to Ige’s campaign. Ige and Tupola have also agreed to a televised KITV debate on Oct. 29 at 9 p.m.