KHON2 and AARP Hawaii present ‘The Race for Governor’ debate

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KHON2 and AARP Hawaii present “The Race for Governor,” a live, televised debate between Democratic candidates Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and incumbent Gov. David Ige.

The debate is part of KHON2’s commitment to providing complete election coverage, and AARP’s “Be the Difference. Vote.” campaign to urge all candidates to address issues important to voters 50 and older, and to hold politicians accountable for their promises. 

KHON2’s Gina Mangieri moderated the debate, while University of Hawaii School of Communications Department Chair Gerald Kato asked questions. Candidates also fielded questions from the general public and each other.

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The primary election takes place Saturday, Aug. 11, and the general election takes place Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Question: Your biggest impact

What will be the biggest impact on people 50-plus under your administration?

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Question: Pension for retirees

Hawaii faces a significant long-term funding shortfall for healthcare and pension commitments to its government workers. What will you do to see that the pension and healthcare commitments of retirees are met?

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Question: Costly long-term care

Hawaii’s long-term care costs are among the highest in the nation. The Genworth long-term care study says the median cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home is $137,240 a year and having a health aide costs $59,488 a year. Many are afraid they cannot afford the cost of a nursing home and neither are they confident they can afford the cost of care at home. What will you do to help Hawaii’s kupuna and their families pay for long-term care?

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Question: Tourism vs. quality of life

Tourism has been essential to Hawaii, but the increasing number of tourists here is straining our resources and carrying capacity of the islands. Where do you see the balance between the rapid growth of tourism and maintaining the quality of life for local residents? Do you think we can continue increasing both the visitor count and the population?

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Question: Transit-oriented development

A livable community is one that is safe and secure, has housing that is affordable (no more than 30-percent of income is spent on housing), transportation options, and offers supportive community features and services for people of all ages and allows people to remain in their communities as they age. Transit-oriented developments (TOD) can be developed with features that provide these benefits to Hawaii’s kupuna. What is your vision for TODs in Hawaii, and specifically, what steps would you take to ensure that Honolulu’s rail project will create transit-oriented development that’s more income-equitable and intergenerational?

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Question: Candidates ask each other questions

Ige: As governor, I’ve been able to cool 1,300 classrooms, engage the community to develop a new blueprint for public education, delivered high school students to be able to take college credits for free. Colleen, what have you done to improve education for Hawaii students?

Hanabusa: David, real leadership does not wait for 38 minutes. You keep saying that the false missile alert was caused by human error by a single individual. A real leader would not pass the buck. The true cause was a systemic failure of leadership by your administration. You had no plan to begin with, and you didn’t know when something went wrong. Will you finally take personal responsibility for the missile fiasco, and we’re still waiting to know why it took 38 minutes.

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Viewer Question: Hawaii’s homeless crisis

What are we doing to create more social programs or organizations in order to help the homeless issue in Hawaii? We have one of the worst homelessness per capita in the whole entire nation, so what type of programs or solutions would the new governor like to implement in order to help resolve this crisis that we have?

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Viewer Question: Facing federal cuts

The federal government is facing a huge deficit and threatening to cut funding for programs such as Medicaid and Snap, what’s commonly known as food stamps. What are you prepared to do if benefits and safety net programs are cut by the federal government?

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Viewer Question: Future tax increases for rail

Would you support future state tax increases to fund rail construction or operations?

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Question: Kupuna Caregivers Program

Hawaii was the first in the nation to help working family caregivers through a program called the Kupuna Caregivers Program. This program provides services like adult daycare to help family caregivers stay in the workforce. This includes one in four millennials who serve as caregivers. The program will need to be funded again next year. Do you support the Kupuna Caregivers Program to help working caregivers stay in the workforce? Why or why not?

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Question: Paid family leave

Paid family leave is another issue that will be before the next governor. Would you support a family leave law that provides paid leave to employees who have to take time off for family caregiving
purposes? If so, how would you propose to pay for it? For instance, should it be paid for by employers? By workers? By taxpayers?  Is there another financial option you’d propose?

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Question: Small business savings

Many small businesses who want to set up a payroll deduction plan to help employees save for retirement find it too difficult and costly. Yet research shows that workers are 15 times more likely to save by having payroll savings plan. Currently, Hawaii has 216,000 workers unable to save at work through payroll deductions. Many states have already set up payroll deduction programs for workers similar to college 529 plans. Would you support and help start a payroll deduction savings program for these workers?

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Question: Nominate your opponent

Only one of you can be elected governor in November. You’re both accomplished leaders, and it would be a shame to have your talents go to waste. Given that, what position in your administration would you consider nominating or appointing your opponent to?

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Question: Candidates ask each other questions

Hanabusa: David, you know one of the things that became very clear to me is that we have to talk about public safety. Your administration failed to protect public safety. Randall Saito, a murderer, simply walked out of the Hawaii State Hospital. It took eight hours for your administration to alert law enforcement about this escape. By then, he’d caught a taxi to the airport, boarded two flights, and landed in California with clothes, cash, and fake ID. Why did it take eight hours to say that a murderer had escaped?

Ige: As governor, I’ve committed to 100-percent clean renewable energy. We’ve protected 40,000 acres of prime watershed. We’ve passed community-based subsistence fishing goals, and streamlined permitting for restoration of traditional fishponds. Colleen, what have you done to protect our environment, the environment of Hawaii?

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Viewer Question: Affordable housing

What is affordable housing in Hawaii, and truly what is affordable in Hawaii? From experience, I’ve applied to affordable housing and I was not even qualified for a loan there, so how can we make housing in Hawaii affordable for the residents of Hawaii?

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Question: Minimum wage

Do you support the proposed $15 minimum wage increase? How do you think it would affect small businesses in Hawaii, and those on fixed incomes?

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Question: Hawaii’s teacher shortage

Hawaii is facing a teacher shortage that is reportedly getting worse. At the same time, U.S. News and World Report ranks Hawaii 32nd among the 50 states in its pre-K to 12th grade rankings of best states for education. What will you do to recruit more qualified teachers for the classrooms while at the same time raising the quality of public education?

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Closing Remarks

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