HONOLULU (KHON) – Honolulu’s next mayor will have the monumental task of handling the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring the safety of nearly one million residents, all while figuring out how to revive Oahu’s economy. 

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KHON2’s Honolulu Mayoral Debate, filmed at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort and moderated by Gina Mangieri, featured candidates Keith Amemiya and Rick Blangiardi. 

The candidates agreed on many issues, such as supporting the current administration’s implementation of a four-tier system for reopening Oahu. 

“I think local people know what to do. We understand what it means to wear a mask. To socially distance, and wash our hands. We have a chance to really create a sense of getting back to normal again,” said Blangiardi. 

“If anything, I’d modify it so if we keep our (COVID-19 case) counts down, we could more fully open the economy much sooner,” said Amemiya. 

When asked how they’d improve the lives of Hawaii’s people during and after the pandemic, Amemiya stressed reducing the cost of living, while Blangiardi focused on getting people back to work.

“Let’s build more affordable housing. Let’s have a true, multi-modal transportation network. Let’s have livable, walkable, safe communities all across Oahu,” said Amemiya. 

“The quality of life has to do with our people getting back to work. This whole episode has been top down. It’s been government dictating the rules. We’ve not had the voice of business at the table—the very people who have the most to lose,” said Blangiardi. 

However, the mood noticeably shifted when the candidates asked their own questions.

Amemiya accused Blangiardi of belittling his work within the community.

“First of all, I’ve never belittled Mr. Amemiya in public. So that’s an allegation that I don’t understand. At the end of the day, I don’t think he understands what it means to be a general manager of a television station, especially here in Hawaii,” Blangiardi responded. 

“Providing news stories is one thing, providing solutions to the community is another,” said Amemiya in return. 

Blangiardi accused Amemiya of spreading lies and personal attacks.

“Rick, I don’t know what you’re talking about and if there’s anyone who’s on the tail end of smear campaigns, it’s myself. These people in the primary election smearing me are now helping you. Don’t throw stones at a glass house,” answered Amemiya. 

Blangiardi responded, “You asked if we could have a truce for this election and I agreed to do that. In fact, I promised civility from day 1 in running for this office and I’ve maintained that civility. But the personal attacks going on and lies you’re spreading and your campaign team, I find really reprehensible.”

They used their closing statements as a final plea to voters.

Rick Blangiardi: “I’m deeply honored by the support I’ve received from diverse individuals and organizations across the island, including from members of both major political parties. If elected, my administration will represent the diversity of our islands and our state. We are the most diverse place in the world, and we’re a role model for all. This election is important in determining the future of the City and County of Honolulu for the next four years, and I believe for a lot longer after that. There will be a time of unprecedented challenges, no question—including problems that have been developing since before the pandemic. I’m ready to dive into those challenges and I am ready to put the people of Oahu first and foremost to better their lives. I humbly ask for your vote, I’d be honored to serve as the mayor of the City and County of Honolulu.”

Keith Amemiya: “This election isn’t about you. It isn’t about me. It’s about us working together to create a better Oahu. My entire career has been dedicated to public service, working in our communities and bringing people together. Oahu is my home, and I pledge to you to give my heart, and soul into everything I do as your mayor. COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge, but we’ve had challenges before and we have overcome them. And as your mayor, I promise to work together with all of you to make Oahu as best as it can be and as strong as it’s ever been. Mahalo again for this opportunity, and I humbly ask for your vote.”

The general election is Nov. 3.

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