There’s not a well-known Republican running in the race for 2nd Congressional District, so Hawaii voters will likely be selecting a new U.S. representative in the Democratic primary on Aug. 11.

Four of the six Democrats running — Mufi Hannemann, Tulsi Gabbard, Esther Kiaaina and Bob Marx — are the leading contenders. Hannemann and Gabbard, according to a recent Civil Beat poll, are tied at the head of the pack.

If you caught the televised debate between the four candidates July 12, you know that the 90-minute forum was dominated by social issues such as gay marriage.

To learn more about their views on the economy and jobs, the debt and deficit, island infrastructure, health care, global warming and political dysfunction in Washington, Civil Beat asked each of the four a number of detailed questions. (You can read the full surveys; the links are at the end of this article.)

Their answers reveal issues where they largely agree — like the need for compromise in Congress and, to varying degrees, cautious support for the use of unmanned drones to fight terrorism — as well as issues that are of particular interest to them and voters in the 2nd Congressional District.

Hannemann, for example, a former tourism lobbyist, emphasizes the need for increasing visitor traffic to the islands from Asia.

Gabbard, a military veteran, wants our country out of Afghanistan quickly in order to deal with financial problems back home.

Kiaaina, the only Native Hawaiian among the candidates, shows interest in Pacific Island matters like federal aid to Micronesians and the threat of global warming to low-lying islands.

And Marx, the only non-Oahu resident running in a district that includes all the neighbor islands, believes he has a better grasp of the issues that are important to constituents.

Diverse Experiences

Perhaps the strongest contrast among the candidates is the experience each would bring to the office.

Hannemann is a former Honolulu Council chair and mayor. Gabbard is a current council member and former legislator who served two tours of duty in the Middle East with the Hawaii Army National Guard. Kiaaina worked for years in Washington with members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. And Marx is a Hilo attorney who formerly served in Oregon’s legislature.

In responding to the survey questions, all four candidates stressed how their past experience would inform their time in Congress.

Here’s Hannemann explaining how he would get the two parties to work together again:

I have a track record of bringing people together and working with people of both parties and all viewpoints to get results for the people I represent. I have had the opportunity to work in Washington under four different presidents — Carter and Clinton, two Democrats, and Reagan and Bush, two Republicans — and have developed many long-standing and effective relationships on Capitol Hill. I have worked as a White House Fellow on the staff of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, served on labor committees under Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, lobbied Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to save jobs at Pearl Harbor, and petitioned President Obama and his administration to get APEC and transportation funding for Honolulu.

Here’s Gabbard answering the same question:

Congress is the body responsible for declaring war and funding our military. As a war veteran, I know the cost of war, both in human lives and resources. I will be able to communicate with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle on the critical issues of foreign affairs and national defense, not from a partisan perspective, but from one of firsthand experience.

Here’s Kiaaina:

With over 20 years of experience in working in Congress on policy issues, I have a proven track record at the staff level for getting legislation enacted into law free-standing or incorporated into another bill. I also have the know-how and savvy to work with both Republicans and Democrats, the committees of jurisdiction, the leadership of both parties, and the Executive Branch, to move legislation forward effectively.

And here’s Marx’s answer:

For the last 30 years I have represented clients in battles against corporations and insurance companies. I served three law-making terms in the Oregon Legislature. My negotiating and lawmaking experience supersedes all the other candidates in this race. I will use the experience I have to compromise and find solutions to the problems this country faces.

Barring a huge upset by another Democrat in the primary, or a unexpected victory by a Republican in the general election, Hannemann or Gabbard or Kiaaina or Marx will fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono come early January.


Read the full candidate responses here:

Three other candidates also answered our survey questions. You can read those here:

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