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Sparks fly in contentious debate as Maui mayoral candidates vie for votes

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Maui County’s race for mayor is shaping up to be the most contentious in the state.

In Saturday night’s debate, organized by Akaku Maui Community Media, incumbent Mayor Mike Victorino defended his record while retired Judge Richard Bissen accused Victorino of being a dysfunctional mayor.

“I’ve been here for 14 years and we’ve been working on these issues all the time because they weren’t simple issues,” Victorino said. “My opponent thinks you should just click and get it over with, sorry.”

“I don’t think we’re just snapping our fingers; I think we need to be active and not passive,” Bissen said.

“I don’t think we should blame everything well, it’s the state’s doing or it’s the pandemic or it’s something out of our control. To me it’s a lack of leadership.”

The comments came during questions about climate change.

Both mayoral candidates expressed their support for replacing land with erosion-prone property.

They also shared similar views on homelessness, along with support for bookings and fees to manage overcrowding.

Water is another big issue on Maui.

“Now with these federal infrastructure funds coming in, we’re dedicating a large portion of this country to make sure our system is really viable and usable,” Victorino said.

“And those sources that we’re talking about, especially terrestrial sources, are developed.”

“This is nothing new,” Bissen said.

“And the way we allocate water meters to expect that someone at the end of the line has to pay all the money, when everyone on that line has to pay, so we have to change our policy. “

They also differ on the out-of-control deer population on Maui.

Bissen calls for eradication, while Victorino wants to control it.

“They’re growing faster than we can manage them, and that’s definitely the biggest concern for our watersheds,” Bissen said.

“It’s not just, oh, we want to keep it as business, business trumps urgency.”

“That’s what I’m looking at is a managed way of taking care of it becoming a business,” Victorino said. “This is to help those in need and, most importantly, to protect our farmers and ranchers from destruction.”

The general election is Nov. 8, and many Maui voters are undecided.

Tina Wildberger, who says she is a frontrunner, feels she has no choice between the two candidates.

“I, like many other progressives who are particularly concerned about the environment, are left with useless inaction,” Wildberger said.

“I’m having a hard time choosing, and I think a lot of other people are in the same position.”

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