Hawaii US House candidates talk military, economy


HONOLULU — Candidates hoping to represent Hawaii in the U.S. House in a crowded primary race shared their positions on military intervention, veterans care and improving Hawaii’s economy.

Five candidates said in a Tuesday forum that they would not support military intervention in Iraq.

“I think there’s a uniquely American notion that every problem must have a solution,” said Honolulu City Councilman Stanley Chang. “After a decade of fighting in the Middle East, that may not be true.”

Most candidates said that while the situation on the ground in Iraq is troubling, it’s best for the U.S. to stay out at this stage.

“We need to stay out of any international wars as much as possible, because we know how these conflicts impact tourism,” said state Sen. Will Espero. “And I don’t want to see the United States get into any mission creep and do anything wrong or terrible in Iraq that they might regret in the near future.”

The candidates shared disappointment about the problems veterans face getting adequate health care, but they disagreed on how to solve those problems.

Most of the candidates said the issues about long wait times for care were caused by a lack of resources, but Democratic Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson said the Department of Veterans Affairs has plenty of money.

“I have to disagree strongly that this is an issue of money,” Anderson said.

A law designed to protect the U.S. shipping industry also split candidates. Republican candidate Charles Djou said Hawaii should get an exemption from the Jones Act, which states that only ships made in the U.S. and flying the country’s flags can deliver goods between U.S. ports.

“The Jones Act is an anachronistic model,” Djou said, adding that it’s particularly hard on Hawaii. “The only way to get our goods is shipping.”

But Democratic candidates at the forum wanted to preserve the law, which they say protects shipbuilding jobs. Vessels built in the U.S. also can be used in a time of military emergency, said Democratic state Rep. Mark Takai.

“The safety of our nation should not be compromised for the sake of cutting costs,” Takai said.

Candidates also talked about the importance of the military and the tourism industry to Hawaii’s economy.

“You can’t take Waikiki and move it to China,” Chang said, adding that it’s an industry that can’t be outsourced.

The debate was hosted by the Building Industry Association of Hawaii and other trade groups related to construction.

There are 11 candidates in the race, but not all were invited to participate. State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, who had planned to attend, canceled because of illness.