Three of the top Democratic candidates in the crowded 2nd Congressional District race won't be able to vote for themselves in the primary election because they live in the 1st District.
And the three — Brian Schatz, Mazie Hirono and Matt Matsunaga — offer somewhat different answers when asked if they'll move to the 2nd District (rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands) if they win the election.
Federal election law doesn't require members of Congress to live in the districts they represent, but it can be a touchy subject with 2nd District voters, who cringe when they see major parts of the 2nd District campaign — from candidate forums to roadside sign-waving — taking place in the 1st District.
Rep. Ed Case, who is giving up the seat to run for the U.S. Senate, lived in Manoa in the 1st District when he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, but moved to Kane'ohe in the 2nd District after he won the seat.
Patsy Mink, who preceded Case, was born and raised on Maui, but lived in the 1st District while she represented the 2nd District in Congress.
Schatz, who now lives in the Makiki district he represented in the state Legislature, said he and his family "will move right away" if he wins the congressional seat — probably to Windward O'ahu.
"I think the most important thing is your ability to effectively represent the views of the 2nd District," he said, asserting that he's probably spent more time on Maui and the Big Island than other candidates who live in the district.
Hirono, the former lieutenant governor who lives in Honolulu, says she would like to move to the 2nd District, but stopped short of saying she actually will do so if her campaign succeeds.
At candidate forums, Hirono has expressed concerns about uprooting her 82-year-old mother, who lives with her, from her familiar surroundings.
"I'd love to live in the 2nd District, especially on one of the Neighbor Islands," Hirono said. "My biggest challenge will be making a decision about where to live, because I enjoy each island for many different reasons.
"Of course, the reality is that if elected I would be living the bulk of the time in Washington, D.C., as that is where the job is."
Hirono argued that "what matters more than where the member of Congress lives is that the representative is attentive to the people of the district, responsive to their needs."
Matsunaga said he previously owned homes in Kailua and Kane'ohe, but currently rents in Wai'alae Iki — the area he served in the Legislature — and he hedges about moving after the election.
"If I am successful, I would certainly like to move to the district; however, that would depend on affordability and accessibility, concerns just like most Hawai'i residents are dealing with these days," Matsunaga said.
Noting that Mink lived out of district, he, too, contended that "what's really the issue is knowledge of district issues, which comes from spending time talking to residents of the district and business people who do business in the district."
Republican candidate Quentin Kawananakoa lived in the 1st District when he represented Nu'uanu in the Legislature, but has since moved back to Windward O'ahu, where he was born and raised, and thinks it essential that a member of Congress lives in the district that he or she represents.
"It is always important for a candidate to be very familiar with his or her district," Kawananakoa said. "By living in your district, you are truly part and parcel of the culture and understandings of your constituency."