Covering the Caldwell-Djou Honolulu Mayoral Race Debate

The challenger, Charles Djou (right), smiles as he makes a point during the mayoral debate. Photo: Christopher Morrow

On Thursday, September 22, 2016 incumbant Mayor Kirk Caldwell squared off with the challenger, Charles Djou, for what turned out to be a very contentous debate. The topics ranged from how to address the future of the elevated rail project, to finding a solution for the growing number of unsheltered individuals in Honolulu, and how to be more supportive of local businesses. Our very own communication department chair, Dr. John Hart, was tapped to moderate the debate between the two candidates. Dr. Hart did an outstanding job in his role as moderator allowing both candidates equal time to voice their views and to respond to one anothers’ statements.

Going into the debate, I knew next to nothing about either of the candidates’ campaign platforms or their views on key issues affecting our city. As the debate progressed, both Caldwell and Djou worked to establish clear distinctions on how each of their policies were differed from their opposition. I left feeling informed about each of the candidate’s positions on multiple issues and with a clear and considered decision on who I would be voting for on election day.

Throughout the debate Charles Djou was on the offensive, constantly firing one pointed attack after another against Caldwell’s leadership ability, past decisions, business conflicts of interest, and personal character. Djou also reminded the audience of his military history and veteran status along with his political experience as a former member of the United States House of Representatives. Although I am also a veteran, I wasn’t convinced by Djou’s arguments and claims. I would have preferred that he focus on elaborating his points more thoroughly and instead of deflecting questions by attacking what Caldwell has done so far. Overall, I found Djou to be lacking in his depth of analysis on the topics in question.

Caldwell was far less aggressive toward Djou, but he was assertive. The current Mayor took more time to discuss the particularities involved in the approaches he has taken to address the problems that have been presented to him. Caldwell certainly was not at his best during the debate, but he did maintain his composure and he argued his points well.

The topic of rail dominant the debate. Both Caldwell and Djou made it clear that the way the rail has been handed needs to change in the futre, but they cited different reasons for the program being  over-budget. Caldwell noted that the cost estimates so far have not been accurate. Djou was much more critical of the issue. He indicated that the leadership had mismanaged the project and that the leadership also needed to be replaced, including Caldwell.

Debates are a time honored tradition in political competitions. They are an excellent way of informing the public about the current issues that a community needs to address, as well as a means to learn about the character of the candidates, and their viewpoints on these critical issues. I recommend that everyone take the time to inform themselves before they walk into the polls to make decisions that will affect everyone for years to come.

Incumbant Mayor of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell (left), gestures to emphasize his argument during the mayoral debate against Charles Djou (right).

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