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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 15, 2006

2nd District candidates make focused case

By Jerry Burris
Public Affairs Editor

Eleven of the 12 partisan candidates for Congress from Hawai'i's 2nd District put on a crisp, disciplined and genial show last night that emphasized why voters will have a tough time deciding whom they want to send to Washington this year.

In a two-hour live broadcast sponsored by Hawaii Public Radio, moderated by political reporter Chad Blair, nine Democrats and two Republicans laid out strong and focused arguments on why they should be chosen to replace Rep. Ed Case, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

(One Democrat, state Sen. Clayton Hee, was unable to attend due to a family emergency.)

There were no major disputes among the candidates, although the policy differences between the Democrats and the two Republicans came across loud and clear.

To a person, the Democrats faulted President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress for bad tax policy, flawed foreign policy and unfocused domestic policy.

By contrast, the two Republicans Sen. Bob Hogue and former Rep. Quentin Kawananakoa generally defended the president and his policies on taxes and the war in Iraq.

Although the candidates were given an opportunity to rebut one other, they generally avoided the temptation to take potshots.

Probably the most aggressive was Kaua'i Sen. Gary Hooser, who repeatedly contended he stands apart from the other candidates on issues ranging from his early opposition to the Iraq war to domestic criminal laws. Hooser likes to remind voters that he proposed a resolution in the state Legislature opposing the war in Iraq before the invasion began. He also was a minority voice in opposition to a "three strikes" sentencing law and a domestic wiretapping law that passed this year.

"Where were they?" he repeatedly asked.

This brought one of the few direct responses of the evening from City Councilman Nestor Garcia, who reminded Hooser that when he (Garcia) was in the Legislature, he was voting against three-strikes and wiretapping laws when Hooser's senatorial ambitions "weren't even a twinkle in your eye."

Another shot came from Hogue, who responded to a comment made by Democrat Brian Schatz, who said it was important to have someone with enough energy to get along with the "barracudas" in Congress.

"There are 434 other people in Congress you have to get along with; you don't do that by calling them barracudas," Hogue joked.

The most interesting question of the evening asked the candidates what they thought would be their greatest challenge if they make it to Washington and how they would overcome it. Briefly, their responses:

  • Ron Menor: Finding a way to work with other Democrats to reverse the "failed policies" of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress.

  • Kawakanakoa: Working as a voice for Hawai'i as the only Republican in the delegation.

  • Garcia: Getting along with folks "on the other side of the aisle."

  • Mazie Hirono: Keeping a focus on the needs of working men and women of Hawai'i.

  • Matt Matsunaga: Reversing Bush's "failed energy policy."

  • Joe Zuiker: Putting true campaign spending reform and budget reform into practice.

  • Hanalei Aipoalani: Remaining "grounded" and in touch with his district.

  • Hooser: Remaining committed to staying in contact with the people of his district, particularly the Neighbor Islands.

  • Colleen Hanabusa: To become a leader in restoring the independent voice of Congress.

  • Schatz: Becoming a strong member of Hawai'i's congressional "team" in the very different Washington environment.

  • Hogue: Building positive relationships with members of Congress from both parties.

    Reach Jerry Burris at jburris@honoluluadvertiser.com.