By Kevin Dayton
Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Marissa Kerns said she didn't attend a televised debate on Monday night because her running mate, Republican gubernatorial candidate Andria Tupola, deliberately failed to inform her that she had been invited.
Tupola denied that allegation. She said she told Kerns at a campaign rally on Sunday that Kerns was invited to the debate.
Kerns said Tupola knew by Oct. 19 that Kerns was invited to the event, and even informed television station KITV that Kerns would attend, but never told Kerns herself.
"I've been pounding Tupola since last night, right after the debate. Oh, my gosh," Kerns said Tuesday. "Not one thing she told me any of that stuff. We even met up the other night at the rally in Kailua.
"Not once did she mention it," Kerns said.
There has been obvious friction between the two GOP candidates, and earlier in the campaign, Kerns said publicly that Tupola should apologize for her voting record, which Kerns said is too liberal. However, more recently the candidates said they have been working together.
Midway through the debate Monday night, moderator Paula Akana announced that Kerns had been invited to the debate and confirmed that she would attend, but never showed. State Sen. Josh Green, who is the Democratic running mate for Gov. David Ige, did attend.
Tupola said Tuesday that KITV told her before the debate that the station had
"informed all of the campaigns." Tupola denied that she accepted the invitation on Kerns' behalf or ever indicated to the television station that Kerns would attend.
When Tupola and Kerns met at the campaign event in Kailua, "I told her that there was a debate and she kept insisting that she wasn't invited, and I was like, 'Nope, I'm pretty sure that KITV invited all of us.' And she was like, 'Nope, nope, it's just for the governors.' And I was like, 'Nope, I think you got it wrong.'
"I tried to talk to her about it. She's definitely a very headstrong, determined person," Tupola said.
KITV News Director Mike Darrah said Tupola was responsible for informing Kerns that she was invited to the debate, and said Tupola told the station that Kerns was coming.
"We told the top of both tickets to bring their running mates for the debate, and both agreed to that," Darrah said. "If I told the head coach what time the game was, I don't call every single player on the team." Darrah said he asked Tupola about Kerns as he walked Tupola out to the set 10 minutes before the debate, and "then she said,
'I don't think she's coming,'" he said. "We expected a four-person debate, and I'm still upset that only three showed up," Darrah said. "I don't know where the breakdown was, but we firmly expected to have a four-person segment."
Hawaii Republican Party Chairwoman Shirlene Ostrov said she called Kerns on Monday afternoon to wish her good luck in the debate, and Kerns told her she did not believe she was invited. Ostrov said she then checked the KITV Facebook page, and said it said nothing about candidates for lieutenant governor attending the event. "So, I said, 'OK, maybe you're right.'"
Kerns said she spoke to Tupola on Monday night and said, "How are you going to fix this?"
"I told her, 'You need to call all the media and let them know. Let them know,'" Kerns said. "She paused and she couldn't say a word ... I just called her. It's just so sad, it's just sad, it's really, really sad."
"She couldn't say a word, that's the problem. She knew she did this deliberately," Kerns said.
Tupola said in a written statement Tuesday that "miscommunication and bumps in the road are inevitable when running a statewide race. We're still both committed to cutting the cost of living for the people of Hawaii!"
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