The race for Hawaii governor between Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Republican Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona has been a contentious one. A stream of dueling press releases has dominated the headlines, political ads have blanketed the airwaves, and hordes of signwavers have lined nearly every street.
But the latest battle in the state’s biggest race began on Twitter.
Aiona claims that the Abercrombie campaign engaged in negative campaigning when its social media director, L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine, published links to a YouTube video and blog post that assert that Aiona is closely tied to the International Transformation Network (a.k.a. Transformation Hawaii, a.k.a. Hawaii He’e Nalu). The ITN has been linked to controversial statements about homosexuality and the practices of other religious groups.
“Is Aiona lying about his ties 2 the Transformation Network..or did he just misspeak again and again..?” read one Twitter post, pointing to a write up by Honolulu blogger Ian Lind that prominently featured the video.
Last Wednesday, Aiona said in a press conference that Faleafine was “spreading what I would call unconscionable, fabricated video attacking me and my personal faith.”
He called on his opponent to denounce Faleafine’s actions. Curiously, the Abercrombie campaign both defended and distanced itself from them.
Abercrombie spokesman Laurie Au told the Associated Press that the video was not created by the campaign, and it was merely “rebroadcast” by supporters. She also said that Faleafine had posted the links to her personal Twitter account, rather than an official campaign account. “Our social media team, by sharing this information, did not engage in negative campaigning,” Au said.
Aiona obviously wanted to get mainstream media coverage of these social media activities, as negative campaigning has been a hot-button issue this election cycle. Indeed, Abercrombie’s religious views had come under attack earlier this year, and local GOP director Dylan Nonaka said it was “not an honest way to campaign.”
Negative campaigning was seen as one reason why Mufi Hannemann lost to Abercrombie in the primary (though I think social media was also a factor).
Unfortunately, the strategy may have backfired. Aiona called out the Twitter posts as negative campaigning, but that label fits easily half of the television ads and mailers out there right now. Meanwhile, he has also called attention to what was previously a largely obscure allegation.
On Oct. 18, San Francisco-based activist Keith Kamisugi posted a comment on Lind’s blog: “Scary stuff! On [so] many fronts! Ian, why do you think that this issue has been ignored by most of the larger media outlets in town?”
Actually, Aiona’s links to the ITN had come up earlier this year, but were largely forgotten.
Now the “larger media outlets” are again paying attention, two weeks before the general election. The YouTube video in question has been posted to Facebook dozens of times, and has over 11,000 views (up from about 3,000 when I first saw it earlier this month). The Huffington Post covered the story, but focused on Aiona’s ties to the ITN rather than the critical Twitter posts. Wilson has posted a detailed update on the issue, and was a guest on the Carroll Cox radio show this past weekend.
- Aiona Decries ‘Dirty Politics’ In Social Networks (KITV)
- Aiona levels negative campaigning charge (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)
- Aiona accuses rival of sharing deceptive video about religion (Associated Press/Maui News)
Disclosure: I am not affiliated with the Abercrombie campaign, although I was previously part of the social media team and remain a supporter. Also, Faleafine is a friend of mine. She politely declined comment, but will surely have some great stories to tell after the election is over!