Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run for the U.S. Senate in the Aug. 11 primary. Eight of the 11 responded, including Mazie Hirono. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read responses by Linda Lingle and Ed Case to see how Hirono’s positions compare to those of her main competitors. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Hirono’s response.

1. President Obama has significantly increased the use of drones to assassinate terrorist targets. The policy has been criticized for denying due process rights for at least one American living abroad, and for the collateral killing of civilians. Do you support this policy — why or why not?

When targeting terrorists abroad, drones are a legitimate weapon that removes the risk to our fighting men and women and are proven effective. It is vital that the use of drones be treated as any other lethal weapon and have the same checks in place for their use. I have a serious concern for the potential that civilian casualties can create more terrorists and feed into the propaganda of those who wish to cast Western Civilization as the enemy. We must keep up constant oversight to ensure that as new weapons technologies are developed they are being used responsibly and with an understanding of both their tactical and strategic imperatives. ↩ back to top

2. A divided U.S. Congress has not been able to come to agreement on how to lower the federal debt, in spite of bipartisan recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and others. What is your evaluation of those recommendations, which include hard decisions regarding entitlement programs, defense spending and taxes?

We are in a unique time in the history of our country – the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We will not recover from that kind of cataclysmic economic downturn overnight. With private corporations holding on to billions they’re not investing, it’s clear once again that the trickle down approach does not work and we can’t just simply cut our way to a stronger economy. It will take a balanced approach that also protects Social Security and Medicare and preserves benefits for our veterans. We also need to grow our way out of this. That’s why smart investments that create jobs, like fixing our roads and bridges, are so important.

We must also target areas that can help bring our spending under control. I’ve identified five areas where we could start: allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% to expire ($830 billion); ending the wars in the Middle East ($1.4 trillion); cutting Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse ($600 billion); ending oil company tax breaks ($41 billion); and improving oil and gas company management ($1.75 billion). This combination of cuts and revenue increases would yield $2.87 trillion over the next ten years. ↩ back to top

3. The major issue for most candidates is jobs and the economy. Can you identify a concrete example of how you as senator would go about stimulating growth both nationally and in Hawaii?

To get our economy moving, we must strengthen and diversify our state’s number one industry- tourism- and invest in building a sustainable future for the people of Hawaii. I will continue the work I started in the U.S. House to pass my bipartisan VISIT USA Act, legislation that could bring more than 300,000 Chinese tourists to Hawaii annually and create thousands of jobs across our state.

In my sustainability plan, I have laid out my commitment to expanding opportunities for education, job creation, infrastructure, clean energy and food security here in Hawaii. ↩ back to top

4. Sen. Dan Inouye has brought countless dollars to the state over his long career, not only for defense projects but to help with energy, agriculture, education, security and Native Hawaiian issues. Should you be elected to the Senate, Inouye could leave office during your time in office. How would you work to continue funding important projects in the islands, especially as a junior senator in a body that values seniority?

Senator Inouye and I have worked closely to secure federal funding on many projects for our state including funds for vital improvements for our airports and military construction projects. I was proud to work with Senator Inouye and our Hawaii delegation recently to ensure our Hawaii farmers and ranchers will receive transportation reimbursements to offset the costs of shipping their products to the Mainland.

The Hawaii delegation’s ability to work collaboratively is critical to ensuring Hawaii retains the federal commitments and funding we need. Our next US Senator must be able to reach across the aisle to protect the interests of the people of Hawaii, such as I did in working with Republican Don Young of Alaska to restore funding for Native Hawaiian education programs. ↩ back to top

5. The Akaka Bill on federal recognition for Native Hawaiians has consistently stalled in the U.S. Senate because of GOP opposition. Do you support federal recognition, and if so, how would you go about securing it?

I am the sponsor of the Akaka Bill in the US House and believe strongly that Native Hawaiians should be recognized as indigenous people as are Alaskan Natives and American Indians. In my first year in the U.S. House, I fought hard to secure the support of all 42 freshmen Democrats for the Akaka bill, none of whom were familiar with the issue. Given their opposition so far, it is safe to say that if Republicans take the Majority in the U.S. Senate, the progress we have made will only be stalled further. It will take collaborative leadership and broad coalitions to secure federal recognition of Native Hawaiians. ↩ back to top

6. Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, what would your goals be in terms of health care policy as a senator? Would you support universal health care?

I am proud to have worked with President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act while protecting Hawaii’s Prepaid Health Care Act. Republicans have vowed that repealing the Affordable Care Act will be their top priority if they take control of the Senate and defeat President Obama. And now we know Linda Lingle would follow her national Republican leadership and vote for its repeal. Make no mistake, repealing this historic legislation would be devastating to the millions of Americans, including young people and seniors on Medicare, who are already benefiting under the ACA. In the US Senate, I will continue working to expand quality, affordable health care coverage for all Americans. ↩ back to top

7. The filibuster has been used by both parties to block legislation. Do you support this controversial parliamentary maneuver? Why or why not?

In my conversations with families across Hawaii, I have heard their frustration that Congress isn’t working to create jobs and get our economy moving. Washington is indeed broken and part of the problem is the misuse and abuse of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Senator Tom Udall has proposed several ways in which the filibuster could be reformed that I believe warrant further discussion including: eliminating secret holds and requiring Senators that use the filibuster to stay on the Senate floor during a filibuster. These proposals could potentially bring transparency and efficiency to the Senate and help increase the public’s confidence in Congress. ↩ back to top

8. Global warming is real, and rising sea levels will certainly impact Hawaii. What steps would you take as a U.S. senator to mitigate the effects of global warming?

While we may be the most dependent state for oil imports, we are not a dependent people. Hawaii needs leadership that recognizes we can’t sustain our over-reliance on imported oil or drill our way to energy independence — but that, with the right policies and priorities, we can create new jobs and innovate our way to a clean-energy tomorrow and start to counter the effects of global warming.

In Congress, I’ve fought to secure millions of dollars for research and development of local energy alternatives like bio-diesel and other alternative fuels — a natural fit for Hawaii with our year-round growing season and abundant agricultural and water resources.

My sustainability plan for clean energy and the jobs it creates includes supporting incentives for more efficient, American-made cars and trucks that run on renewable fuels, and fighting to redirect the billions of dollars in outrageous taxpayer subsidies Washington currently gives away to oil and gas companies toward production of clean fuels and energy-efficient manufacturing. My record and plan for building a more sustainable future here in Hawaii is why my campaign has been endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters

In the U.S. Senate, I’m determined to continue reordering America’s energy priorities — moving us from an economy where fossil fuel exploration makes only a few people wealthy, to an economy based on renewable energy innovation that creates jobs for thousands of people here in Hawaii and protects our air and water for generations to come. ↩ back to top

9. 1. The Citizens United decision has resulted in nearly unlimited amounts of money being spent on behalf of many candidates. Massachusetts candidates Scott Brown and Eilzabeth Warren have pledged to reject super-PAC money in their Senate contest. Would you be willing to do that in your race — why or why not?

I would support an agreement similar to that signed in the Massachusetts Senate race, where outside spending has significantly decreased since Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown signed their contract. With the Republicans set on winning here in Hawaii and taking control of the US Senate, we can expect to see millions more from these conservative groups in the coming months if we don’t take these steps to keep special interest money out of campaigns. Our campaign may be outspent by these Republican mainland super PACs, but their agenda is not our Hawaii agenda and we will not be outworked. ↩ back to top

10. 1. What is an issue you think is important to address as a U.S. Senate candidate — one that perhaps has not been given sufficient attention during the campaign?

In addition to job creation and building a more sustainable future for Hawaii, my top priority in the U.S. Senate will be education and providing our students with the skills they need to succeed both in school and in life. In Hawaii, we have suffered the shameful consequences when politicians squabble over, rather than strengthen, our local schools. The people of Hawaii have no tolerance for “Furlough Fridays” that shortchange our keiki, their futures, or our economy.

I have been a longtime advocate and leader throughout my time in public office on quality early education. I’m proud to be an active member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce — where I’ve been an outspoken advocate for fixing and reforming the No Child Left Behind Law, and have helped secure more than $115 million in federal education funding for Hawaii’s children, teachers, and schools. I led the fight to help states fund universal preschool which was included in President Obama’s landmark education reform package. I secured $500,000 for Tutu and Me Traveling Pre-School which provides critical early education programs for Native Hawaiian and low income keiki. I supported the largest investment in Pell grants and student loans in history to expand access for students in higher education. And I reached across the aisle to Republican Don Young of Alaska to restore funding for Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native education programs.

Education truly is, as many have called it, “the great equalizer.” My own life, my own experiences, is a testament to this. By focusing on education — especially subjects like math and science and technology — we can help prepare our children for the jobs and careers of tomorrow, and provide Hawaii’s businesses with the educated workforce they need to thrive and innovate. In the US Senate, I will work every single day and take every opportunity to strengthen Hawaii’s public schools. ↩ back to top

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