Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Kathryn Xian, one of seven Democratic candidates for U.S. representative for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.

The district is essentially urban Honolulu, but it stretches from Hawaii Kai in East Honolulu to Waipahu in west Oahu and Mililani in central Oahu. The district includes Pearl City, Waimalu, Aiea and the downtown area.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Name: Kathryn Xian

Office: Congressional District 1

Party: Democrat

Profession: Executive director, Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery

Education: Bard College and Arizona State University

Age: 41

Community organizations: Girl Fest Hawaii; Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery; Emalani Organic Community Garden; Social Justice Ministry at St. Andrew’s; Episcopal Diocesan Mission Beyond Church Committee.


Kathryn Xian

Kathryn Xian

Charles W Simmons


1. Why are you running for the U.S. House of Representatives?

Hawaii’s people deserve a representative that will put the people before profit. As a non-profit director, I protect our children from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. I believe that in order to be a greater leader, you must put people first. I vow to practice that belief in Congress.

2. Do you believe climate change is real? If so, what can the United Staes do to control carbon emissions?

Climate change is real. We must respond by stewarding Hawaii’s natural resources for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. Because of our geographical isolation, 90 percent of our state’s energy comes from imported fossil fuels. In Washington, I will support a national carbon tax, offset by a refund to businesses and individuals that make energy efficiency improvements. I will also expand carbon-neutral renewable energy by pushing for national on-bill financing for photovoltaic upgrades, permanent tax credits for fuel efficient vehicles, and a federal Clean Energy Bank to incentivize green energy projects. To boost local sustainability efforts, I will double federal funding for the Hawai’i Natural Energy Institution by 2020.

3. Where do you draw the line between the government’s national security needs and the privacy of its citizens?

We must not compromise constitutional rights because we fear terrorism. If we do, the terrorists have already won. It is the government’s responsibility to establish probable cause for search or seizure, including the surveillance of private citizens’ online and telephone activities. Once elected, I will make our national security policies more transparent by working to end warrantless surveillance of American citizens and declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court rulings.

4. Under what circumstances should America go to war?

The United States should only go to war when significant loss of American lives is imminent. To honor the sacrifice of our military personnel and their families, we must only risk soldiers’ safety in order to protect innocent civilians, and only when we can be certain of the threats we face. America must never send our children into battle to protect corporate interests or in violation of another nation’s sovereignty.

5. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — how should the government continue to support these entitlements? Are reforms necessary?

We must keep our promises to our kupuna. I will preserve social benefits by endorsing proposals to phase out the payroll tax cap over 10 years and ensuring that benefits reflect the rising cost of retirement. I will also develop universal, secure, adaptable retirement funds that are professionally managed, fully portable, and payable as an annuity with survivorship rights for beneficiaries.

6. Congress has struggled in recent years to reach agreement on budget deficits, the national debt and spending in general. What would your approach to fiscal matters?

My commitment to people-driven economics is reflected in my balanced approach to prosperity, which includes raising the federal minimum wage, streamlining small businesses’ credit and loan application processes, and increasing oversight of Wall Street trading practices. To address our nation’s budget deficit, I will eliminate loopholes and inefficiencies in the corporate tax code, while ending over $50 billion in annual tax giveaways offered to big oil companies.

7. It has been difficult to bridge the partisan decide in Washington lately. How would you make a difference?

As an openly gay anti-human-trafficking advocate, I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass laws combating modern-day slavery. including a statewide ban on labor trafficking. I’ve learned that crafting sound public policy requires listening to multiple perspectives. In Congress, I will strengthen my views by seeking feedback from my opponents. Yet, I will never compromise my commitment to social and economic justice or surrender the people’s voice in the political process.

8. What is your policy on immigration?

My great grandfather came to Hawaii aboard the SS Gaelic, which brought the fist Korean immigrants to the islands. I understand the dedication of aspiring Americans to building a better life for themselves and their families. To advance both opportunity and national security, I support comprehensive immigration reforms that streamline residency for promising high school graduates, provide a pathway to citizenship for domestic migrants, and increase visa tracking to safeguard against human trafficking. We must also review the impact of “free trade,” which often sacrifices human rights to corporate revenue, turning hardworking people into economic refugees.

9. What is your view of the role of the U.S. military in the islands?

Hawaii’s cultural lands have been used for bomb testing. Members of our Kanaka Maoli have been displaced to provide training grounds for troops. This must come to an end. To replace the financial boost brought by militarization, I will work to diversify our state’s economy by creating jobs in clean energy research, digital media, and infrastructure developments.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

We must stop the abuse of harmful pesticides in local agriculture and GMO farming. Lack of regulations endangers public safety. Our children, nursing mothers, and chronically ill are at risk of being poisoned, especially if they live near farms using restricted use pesticides, like biotech companies who dowse their crops with atrazine and glyphosate. If elected I will increase oversight of pesticide approval sales, while providing funds for agricultural inspections to ensure that the food on our tables is safe for us to eat.

Additionally, today’s women face gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and economic inequality, earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. As a congresswoman, I will work to eliminate the gender pay gap, defend access to reproductive health care, and expand access to housing assistance for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.