HONOLULU — Hawaii’s Democratic candidates for governor told voters Tuesday how they would improve health care, the economy and quality of life for seniors.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige also compared leadership styles during a forum hosted by AARP on the Big Island.
Asked about his leadership style, Abercrombie stressed his track record instead of his way of working with others.
“The proof of the pudding, my mother used to say, was in the eating,” Abercrombie said. “The whole question of leadership is not a question of what you might do. It’s a question of what you’ve done.”
Ige stressed his ability to bring people with different perspectives together during his decades of experience in the state Legislature and the private sector.
“I think everyone who works with me knows my word is good,” Ige said. “I say what I mean, I do what I say … I don’t make promises I can’t keep.”
Both candidates want to address a shortage of doctors on the islands.
Ige said the best way to have doctors establish their practices on the archipelago is for them to complete their residencies in those communities.
Abercrombie said more scholarships should be awarded at the University of Hawaii’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.
Both candidates also want to fix Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which is facing layoffs and financial strife.
The state should review the hospital system’s contracts, Ige said.
“The existing contract is very difficult and increases costs significantly,” he added.
Abercrombie said the state should push congressional delegations to fix Medicare and Medicaid problems and reach out to hospital associations to form partnerships.
Both candidates were asked whether they would support a law requiring hospitals to train family members or loved ones to properly care for discharged patients.
Ige said he supported a bill from AARP that would have required hospitals to train caregivers, but there were liability concerns to address, so he voted for a task force. Abercrombie said he worked with AARP on the bill, and that his administration has since put together the working group.
The candidates also tackled how to relieve economic pressure faced by middle class families.
“Is the price of paradise getting too high?” asked debate moderator Gerald Kato, journalism associate professor at the University of Hawaii.
Ige said the visitor industry needs support because it provides the bulk of Hawaii’s jobs, and more federal investment is needed in Hawaii.
“We need to diversify our economy and create new jobs here,” Ige added.
Abercrombie accused Ige of talking in generalities and said the state should focus on building a pharmacy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, moving forward with a giant telescope being built on the Big Island and partnering with developers to build housing on public state lands.