By Derrick DePledge
The most awkward moment at the forum Tuesday at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii between Gov. Neil Abercrombie and state Sen. David Ige?
Howard Dicus, the moderator and a business reporter for Hawaii News Now, asked the two Democrats who they supported in the Democratic primary between U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
"Is this a trick question?" joked Abercrombie, who appointed Schatz in December 2012 to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.
Many of the same prominent politicians -- including former Gov. George Ariyoshi and former Gov. Ben Cayetano -- who are supporting Hanabusa are also backing Ige.
Ige politely sidestepped the question.
"I think the people of Hawaii are very fortunate to have two very qualified candidates to step up to the table and have decided to offer their name as a potential nominee for the United States Senate," he said. "I hope that all of you will be compelled to vote. I think it's very important that you make that decision. And I'm confident that the people of Hawaii will make the right choice for the U.S. Senate position."
Abercrombie said the Democratic Party of Hawaii gave him three excellent choices for the appointment in Schatz, Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina, a former deputy at the state Department of Land and Natural Resources who now works at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
"What I determined to do was to try to pick the person that I felt -- of those three excellent people -- that had the best chance to set a foundation for Hawaii's future," the governor said. "We all know that the longer you serve in the United States Senate -- in particular, the longer you get your seniority -- the more power that comes. To a small state like ours, that couldn't be more important.
Abercrombie said he is confident he did the right thing with the appointment and that voters will make their choice based on what is in the best interest of the state's future.