Last week the Chamber of Maui Political Action Committee (COMPAC) conducted its candidate endorsement process, with 12 chamber members dedicating their time to serve on this committee. Collectively, they donated approximately 200 hours of time to interview and score candidates to determine those deemed to be those most friendly to business.
Of 20 total races, 14 were scored as several incumbents running unopposed in the general election chose not to meet with the chamber and participate in the process despite multiple attempts to encourage them to do so. They are state Sens. Shan Tsutsui and J. Kalani English; state Reps. Joe Souki and Gil Keith-Agaran; and County Council Members Riki Hokama and Elle Cochran.
It is important for candidates to meet with business members to learn more about chamber priorities and discuss important business and community issues. While these individuals will be re-elected with one vote, it is a shame that they would not make the time to meet with business constituents. As participation is required for an endorsement, they eliminated that possibility. However, two council members who are also running unopposed did choose to meet with the chamber and discuss issues and priorities - Bob Carroll and Mike White.
In the race for the U.S. Senate seat, the chamber put a great deal of effort into scheduling a candidate debate to serve as our endorsement process for this race. Linda Lingle confirmed early on, Ed Case confirmed before the primary (but lost in the primary), and Mazie Hirono's campaign officials eventually said they were focused on the primary and could not get back to us until after the primary on Saturday, Aug. 11, knowing that the debate was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 15.
Many attempts to confirm Hirono's attendance were made, with deadlines extended through Tuesday morning, Aug. 14. With no confirmation or declination by Tuesday at 10:38 a.m. and a final follow-up call, the event was changed from a debate to a forum. All candidates were informed that participation was required for a COMPAC endorsement.
At no time during our numerous communications with the Hirono campaign did anyone express any concerns. In fact, given the initial lack of response, we wanted to address possible concerns and shared with the Hirono campaign that the Maui chamber is: nonpartisan, nonsectarian, has a history of endorsing both Democrats and Republicans based on a business-friendly agenda, and that any past endorsement does not constitute a future endorsement. We also shared that our endorsement process is completely separate from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's endorsement and will be made based on the Maui debate.
We were therefore surprised to learn from The Maui News that the reason given for Hirono not participating was "because chamber board members have financially supported Lingle's campaigns dating back to 1998" and that "There are serious questions on whether Mazie would get a fair shake."
First, the campaign misjudged the chamber. All who appear before COMPAC receive a fair shake. Second, it is disappointing that this concern was not raised with us, which would have given us an opportunity to address it. Third, if their mind was made up, it would have been kinder to simply decline the invitation, recognizing all the effort that goes into planning such events. And fourth, candidates should engage in as many public forums as possible to give people an opportunity to hear their views and make an informed choice.
We encourage all politicians to honor their constituents by making the time to participate in public forums, be transparent, open up dialogue, debate issues, and afford the public the opportunity to vote for those who are most aligned with their values and views. Our endorsements will be out soon.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.