Fall 1986 Home   Newsletters

Winter 1986

Feb 1987

Debates that Were (Dee Dee Letts)
Debate that Wasn't (Janet Mason & Jeanne Trebor-MacConnell)
President's Column (Anne Lee)
Program Planning
Water Resources in 1986 Legislature (Kiyoko Nitz)
1987 State Convention
Bringing Star Wars Down to Earth
Mahalo Channel 11
1986-1987 LWV/Hawaii Calendar
Nominees Wanted
State Board Tape (Muriel Roberts)
LWVEF Thanks the Following For Making Our Debates Possible
National Studies
ABC Election Reporting
Mahalo Channel 2

The Debate that Wasn't

The LWV/Hawaii Congressional Debate Working Group met several times during the spring and summer to iron out the details for the debate. Criteria, established in March 1986, stated that all candidates, including those representing third parties, would have to receive at least 15% of the votes in a public opinion poll in order to take part in the debate.

All six contenders for the Congressional seat were contacted in August, and at that time were asked to reserve

the date for a pre-general election debate. After the September primary and special election, the Working Group agreed that Mufi Hannemann (D) and Patricia Saiki (R) had qualified to take part in the debate. Since Blase Harris (L) had received only .4% of the popular vote in the special election, he did not meet the criteria, set up in March, for participation.

Negotiations began in earnest almost immediately with members of the candidates' staff -- John Clark, Saiki's campaign manager, and Harvey Hukari, a hired campaign specialist who used to work for the Republican National Committee, for Saiki and DiDi Chang for Hannemann. The proposed debate format, as established by the Working Group, was discussed step by step with each candidate group separately. Agreement was reached on each step before proceeding to the next. The League Working Group had already determined the few non-negotiable items. While they were few they were critical to the League's concept of a congressional debate.

Clark and Hukari requested several changes in format. They asked that the candidates be allowed to sit rather than stand during the debate. Due to the differences in height of the candidates, this request was granted even though a more dynamic format is one with the candidates standing.

After a series of negotiations, the League reached agreement on the format with Clark and Hukari. However, Clark would not sign the format agreement until he showed it to Saiki. Although Saiki had already announced publicly that she would be unwilling to take part in the program unless the Libertarian candidate was included, the subject was not mentioned until the end of the meeting.

When Clark brought it up, the League Working Group again asserted that the criteria for debate participants, including third party candidates, which had been set in March, was not negotiable. Since both Clark and Hukari were very satisfied with the newly-agreed-upon format, they did not anticipate that Harris' non-participation would be a problem. Their recommendation to Saiki would be for her to participate.

The next day, the revised format was presented to Di Di Ching, Hannemann's media representative and she accepted it pending the candidate's approval. Ching said that Hannemann would prefer Harris be included, however, he would debate without him because he felt it was more important that a debate be presented on prime time so the public could compare the major candidates.

After several communications with Saiki headquarters, Clark informed the League that Saiki refused to debate unless Harris was included. He was told then there would be no debate.

Initial newspaper coverage supported Saiki's decision. However, when she proceeded to accept other invitations to appear with Hannemann but without Harris on TV and radio and at other meetings, the media and even Harris were convinced that Saiki was not acting out of any strong principle.

Overall, the League came out strong. It set criteria and stood by them under intense pressure to capitulate.

Although the debate was not held, much preparation had been completed for it. The League volunteers had worked hard in negotiating, not only with the candidates, but with the media. On-air promotion spots had been arranged and ads scheduled for the papers and TV Guide. A broadcast agreement was negotiated with Channel 2, which had agreed to televise the debate and feed it to the other stations. Physical arrangements for the debate were made, tickets and programs were printed, and a myriad of other details were arranged.

The Working Group for the First Congressional District Debate was headed by Janet Mason (project manager and TV coverage negotiator). Assisting her were Jeanne Trebor-MacConnell (candidate negotiation, format, panelists), Caroline Ingersoll (promotion), Allison Lum (site coordination), Tisha Hickson (tickets, invitations, programs), Arlene Ellis (volunteer selection), Anne Lee (spokes-person), Pat Shutt (moderator), Carol Whitesell (program evaluation), and Mary Frances Sutphen (Treasurer and negotiator).

All of us in the League appreciate the hard work these volunteers and others did and share in their frustrations that the debate did not take place.

Jeanne Trebor-MacConnell
Janet Mason

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