The economy is the issue in the upcoming elections, U.S. House of Representatives hopeful Mufi Hannemann says.
“Although we are experiencing a slight increase, I really believe we have a long way to go,” said Hannemann, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District seat. “I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet.”
He’s hoping his background in city government and tourism promotion can translate into success in convincing the rest of Congress to pursue a visa waiver program or other changes to increase tourism from Asia.
“Everyone is after the Chinese market,” Hannemann said. “Hawaii has the Japan model.”
For the first time, Hannemann said, the United States is marketing itself as a national tourism destination.
Increasing tourism arrivals could result in more funding for Kona International Airport, particularly for long-planned repairs and improvements, he said.
“It has a designation as an international airport,” Hannemann said. “All those flights cannot go to Honolulu. That could be a good catalyst to speed up long overdue improvements.”
Hannemann said he supports the continuation of the Jones Act, which requires ships traveling between domestic U.S. ports be American-owned, -flagged and -crewed.
For one, using U.S. ships is a national security issue, he said, particularly with regards to how American goods are shipped.
“I still think the Jones Act provides opportunities for American workers, especially those who depend upon the harbor, the docks for their livelihood,” he added.
He would support some kind of increase in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to Hawaii’s doctors, similar to the 35 percent increase now in place for Alaska’s doctors.
“Doctors are hard to come by,” he said, adding increased reimbursements would add “much more appeal to residing and practicing in the neighbor islands.”
While he would want to see the country’s military continue to be strong enough to “defend and protect” the nation, it’s also easy to look at something like Defense Department spending and find inefficiencies that could be cut, Hannemann said.
Cuts to military spending shouldn’t impact military presence in the state, however, because of the islands’ strategic location.
He would like to see a boost to science and technology jobs on the Big Island, especially at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority.
He said he supports a “fully funded” community college in West Hawaii.
Hannemann has heard Hawaii residents expressing their concerns about the way Congress has been running, and about losing retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka’s 36 years of experience.
Akaka’s retirement has created the House of Representatives opening for Hawaii, because incumbent Rep. Mazie Hirono is seeking Akaka’s seat.
“People are very concerned about this partisan gridlock,” Hannemann said, noting he has worked in two Republican and two Democratic presidential administrations. “I’ve always been a bipartisan type of person.”