Schatz, Hanabusa talk relationships in debate


HONOLULU — For Democratic rivals Brian Schatz and Colleen Hanabusa, politics is all about relationships.

Schatz says he’s been surprised at how many friends he’s made as a freshman U.S. senator. Hanabusa says her time in state government before getting to the U.S. House shows how she’s earned respect and confidence of peers.

And Hawaii needs those relationships, both candidates said during their first debate Tuesday night on Kauai. Schatz and Hanabusa are vying to fill the final two years of deceased U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye’s term through 2016.

Both candidates agreed on doing more to help veterans health care, but Schatz disagreed with Hanabusa’s support for expanding a hospital in Guam.

Both candidates don’t support military action in Iraq, but while Schatz said the situation is unclear, Hanabusa said President Barack Obama is unclear about why he’s sending troops to the country.

On genetically modified foods, Hanabusa said the federal government still needs to study the issue while Schatz said counties should be allowed to pass their own laws.

The candidates plan to debate again Wednesday night in Hilo.