Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Ernie Martin, a Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu. There are six other Democratic candidates, including Doug Chin, Beth Fukumoto, Kaniela Ing, Ed Case, Donna Mercado Kim and Sam Puletasi.

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

Candidate for U.S. House District 1

Ernie Martin
Party Democrat
Age 58
Occupation Attorney at Law
Residence Mililani Mauka


Community organizations/prior offices held

Honolulu City Council, chairman and presiding officer; chair, Budget Committee; Honolulu Department of Community Services, acting director, deputy director; Wahiawa Lions Club; National Association of Counties; Pacific Gateway Center; Governor’s Turtle Bay Advisory Working Group; Executive Steering Committee, Honolulu Weed and Seed; Waipahu Neighborhood Board; Member, ex-officio, Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women; Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities; Mayor’s Leeward Coast Community Benefits Advisory Board; Mayor’s Task Force on Drug/Alcohol Abuse; Oahu Workforce Investment Board.

1. What would be your first priority if elected? How would that change if your party is in the majority? The minority?

My priorities aren’t dependent on which party controls the House. I will fight for what is best for Hawaii.  I will work with allies on both sides of the aisle to ensure Hawaii gets its fair share. Given that, my first priority when elected is to develop a cohesive working relationship with Hawaii’s congressional delegation to ensure that we work together in advancing an agenda that focuses on Hawaii’s priorities first and foremost.

I would also seek to develop relationships with other congressional representatives, in both the House and Senate, who may have similar ideologies and state/federal interests.

In terms of specific legislative priorities, I’ll work to increase oversight of Veterans Affairs, so Hawaii’s veterans can receive timely access to the housing assistance, health care and employment training they deserve. I will also address homelessness and the need for affordable housing by ensuring that federal funding for these programs is protected and spent effectively.

And I’ll make sure that Hawaii is getting its fair share of infrastructure and transportation investments by advocating for additional federal investments and funding flexibility to get important local projects – like the rail transit project – done without additional burden on local taxpayers.

2. Who would you support for Speaker of the House?

I can’t say who I would vote for, as I don’t know who will be running. I believe we need to respect all that Ms. Pelosi has done as Speaker while recognizing that we need some new blood in our party leadership. The status quo isn’t working for the people and that is what will drive my decision.

3. Under what circumstances should America go to war?

Coming from a family with an extensive record of service, in particular, service in combat in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, and whose brother died while in service to our country, military aggression should always be the last course of action taken by our nation in responding to a potential and/or real hostile threat.

While diplomacy is the preferred remedy, if we are facing a real and imminent threat or if we or our allies have been attacked, then we will have to face the reality of war. But, if this is the course of action that is the best option for our nation, as determined by our commander-in-chief, then the consent of Congress should be obtained.

4. Should Facebook be regulated by the federal government? How?

Given the influence, there needs to be a discussion about the rules that govern the news aspect of Facebook. This is a new challenge, and we need new rules to govern. I plan on taking part in that discussion, but it is too soon to give a specific solution to the problem of fake news on Facebook.

5. What should the United States do to control carbon emissions and slow climate change?

We need to agree that the science is real and climate change is happening. We need to go back to the Paris Climate Agreement; we need to enforce the rules on the books. Unfortunately, the new Congress may have to spend quite a bit of time reinstituting the policies Trump has rolled back regarding our oceans, wildlife/sea life, clean air and clean water.

6. Is it time to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? How?

Medicare and Medicaid relate to our need for universal health care. They are two of the four programs; the Affordable Care Act and the Veterans Administration are the other two, serving our health care needs. We should take what works from each system and fill in the gaps with new, creative policy that lowers the cost for everyone. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel; we just need to fix what’s broken.

As for Social Security, we need to be sure that it provides a decent standard of living for our elderly. Real cost of living adjustments based on real circumstances. Taking care of our elders requires more than increased Social Security payments. It requires affordable housing initiatives, transportation options and cost controlled health care options.

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

I personally fail to see why Congress has failed to come to a consensus on passing a fiscally responsible budget year after year. Common sense needs to prevail – we should only budget for what we can afford and not resort to passing an unbalanced budget that adds to our national debt. Congress should focus on a budget that assures that the needs of our citizens are addressed first and foremost; in particular, those from socially and economically challenged circumstances before considering corporate tax breaks.  Congress needs to adopt legislation that mandates the adoption of a balanced annual budget by a specified date or forego this responsibility. There seems to be no urgency on this issue.

8. Whatever happens in the midterm elections, Congress will remain deeply divided. What specifically would you do to help bridge the partisan divide in Washington?

Most people know that I don’t suffer fools lightly. In Washington, that means I’m going to be putting the people of Hawaii over partisan politics. There is real work to be done. I don’t believe that education, health care, personal and public safety should be used as bargaining chips. I will work with anyone who is willing, can bring good sensible solutions to the table and will help get things done.

9. What should be done to reform U.S. immigration policies, if anything?

Separating families is never a good idea. I believe immigration is a federal issue and many of our problems come from the Department of Homeland Security securing local law enforcement to do a federal job without all of the necessary training and oversight. We can only ask our local police to do so much. We also need to take a real look at who we are deporting. While sending criminals home may make sense, deporting people who have lived here for decades and contributed to America’s growth and prosperity should have a path to citizenship.

10. What is your view of the role of the U.S. military in the islands, and would you like to see that role increased or decreased?

While we are all hopeful that the recent summit in Singapore will result in the denuclearization of North Korea, we have to be realistic and prepare for the “worst case scenario.” The threat from North Korea is real and we also need to be mindful of potential threats from countries, such as China and Russia, that already possess the nuclear capabilities to do harm to our nation and allies.

Hawaii is a strategic location and the role of the military is critical, otherwise there would not be the need to have the Pacific Command situated in our state. Based on the informational briefings that I have had from the military, at a minimum, I would favor the addition of advanced defense systems, such as high-level radar systems, as opposed to nuclear missiles or massive troop buildup, to strengthen our military capabilities.

11. What specific reforms, if any, would you seek in gun control policies?

We need to ban assault weapons and bump stocks, expand background checks and ensure that the ATF has the 21st century technology necessary to effectively enforce our laws. But we need to do more. Anyone who has been convicted of domestic abuse or a hate crime should not have access to a gun. We need to provide additional funding to schools specifically for full-time counselors so that we can help with their mental health issues when they start and prevent some of their violent behaviors.

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

Being the only candidate that has served in both the executive and legislative branches of government, I have a firm understanding of the necessity of working within both branches to achieve a local, state and/or federal objective. While each prospective candidate will articulate his/her legislative priorities, even if he/she is successful in advancing his/her agenda through the Congress, it will also necessitate some level of support, in most, if not in all instances, from the executive branch to be effectuated.

Therefore, I will also work to develop relationships within the agencies of the executive branch to develop a reasonable understanding of its priorities and capabilities to advocate for Hawaii’s interests.

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