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 Doug Chin, a Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu. There are six other Democratic candidates, including Donna Mercado Kim, Beth Fukumoto, Kaniela Ing, Ed Case, Ernie Martin and Sam Puletasi.
1. What would be your first priority if elected? How would that change if your party is in the majority? The minority?
As a prosecutor, I spent my career protecting the civil rights of vulnerable people. As attorney general, I prosecuted high-profile corruption cases, got loan forgiveness for students who were swindled by for-profit colleges, and I stepped up to stop Trump’s hurtful and hateful Muslim ban.
I’m running for Congress because I believe, in times like these, Hawaii needs a representative in Congress with a proven track record of standing up to bullies like Donald Trump.
I know how hard it is for Hawaii families to make ends meet, pay the bills, and put food on the table. That’s why I will never stop working to make sure Hawaii families have a chance of success and that we face our challenges head-on.
You can count on me to fight for more affordable housing for Hawaii families; to protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and address climate change; to give every child a quality education; and, to work with our congressional delegation to ensure Hawaii continues to receive the federal funds we need to thrive.
My values and priorities will be the same whether or not Democrats retake the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
2. Who would you support for Speaker of the House?
My vote for the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives will go to the leader most committed to passing new laws and securing new funding to promote Hawaii’s progressive values and protect President Obama’s legacy.
3. Under what circumstances should America go to war?
The might of the U.S. military should only be brought to bear when all efforts at diplomacy have failed and when America, or our interests, are threatened with imminent harm. That’s why it is critical for the State Department to be both staffed and fully funded – two things the Trump administration has failed to accomplish in its first 500 days.
I am deeply concerned by President Trump’s dangerous tendency to conduct U.S. foreign policy via Twitter – even as he undercuts real diplomacy by failing to staff the State Department. His reckless conduct makes our complicated world a more dangerous place.
Now, more than ever, Congress needs to step up and renew its commitment to being a real check-and-balance to Trump’s backward foreign policy agenda. That’s why I will vote to repeal and replace the Authorization for Use of Military Force, a measure passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, which has been used by presidents of both parties to engage in short-sighted and destabilizing military campaigns in places like Iraq and Libya.
4. Should Facebook be regulated by the federal government? How?
Facebook is facing a long and tough road ahead to reassure users that it can be trusted to safeguard our personal information and keep Russian trolls out of U.S. elections. Ultimately, Congress needs to take action to protect Americans’ privacy online and fix America’s broken campaign laws, which have failed to keep pace with the digital age.
I will support common sense reforms to bring transparency to the advertising we see on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the countless other places that are part of our daily digital lives. A natural first step is requiring the disclosure of the person or group responsible for the ads – something we already require in newspapers, on television and the radio.
5. What should the United States do to control carbon emissions and slow climate change?
As Hawaii attorney general, I have been on the forefront of Hawaii’s unmatched commitment to building a more sustainable future by powering our state with 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And I’ve been a strong advocate for action on climate change, signing a pledge to stick with the international Paris Agreement after President Trump pulled the U.S. out, and I opposed the nomination of climate change denier Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In Congress, I will follow in the footsteps of visionary leaders – like U.S. senators Brian Schatz and Bernie Sanders – to be a steadfast champion for preserving our precious natural resources, reducing greenhouse emissions, and stopping climate change. The people of Hawaii can count on me to secure federal funding to invest in sustainable sources and new technologies so we can generate, store, and transmit the green energy of the future.
6. Is it time to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? How?
I believe all kupuna deserve to enjoy retirement with dignity and security. As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I will always vote to safeguard the lifesaving benefits of Medicare, and I will support increasing Social Security’s guaranteed benefits. Likewise, I will support strengthening America’s promise of accessible health care for low income and working people by expanding and increasing funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Congress should seize opportunities to strengthen these critical safety net programs by taking steps like empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries.
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?
Passing a federal budget is as an opportunity to chart a course for the future we all want to see. And it should be a statement of American priorities, not a wish list of special interests secured by corporate lobbyists. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have engaged in nothing short of legislative class warfare – literally, taking money away from our public school teachers, and giving it to private jet owners and the richest among us.
The American people deserve better than the short-term budgets, shutdowns, and governing-by-crisis that has been on display in Washington. It’s time for Congress to break the dysfunctional cycle of gridlock and brinkmanship, stop kicking the can down the road, and do its job. To that end, I will bring my extensive executive experience managing government budgets to support making smart, targeted cuts to the federal budget, closing tax loopholes for special interests and corporations, and repealing Donald Trump’s misguided tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
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?
My colleagues from 15 Democratic and Republican states elected me as chair of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. In this role, I brought these diverse leaders together to find common ground and solutions to pressing policy challenges like giving legal cannabis businesses access to banks and addressing the opioid crisis. You can count on me to bring the same spirit of aloha and cooperation to my work for Hawaii in Congress, where success often depends on building relationships on both sides of the aisle and convincing others to follow your lead.
9. What should be done to reform U.S. immigration policies, if anything?
Few in the country have done more to take on the Trump Administration’s hateful and hurtful policies. As Hawaii attorney general, I was the first in the nation to challenge Donald Trump’s revised Muslim ban in federal courts from Honolulu to the U.S. Supreme Court. And I fought against discrimination by working to protect DACA grantees or DREAMers who came to this country as children. Last July, I got the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Trump’s plan to separate families, and I will continue to call on the Trump administration to reunite and keep migrant families together.
I believe Hawaii’s rich diversity makes us stronger – and it’s worth fighting for. That’s why you can count on me to push for legislation to overhaul our failed and outdated immigration system to recognize the critical contributions and harness the talents of America’s immigrants. I will support passing the DREAM Act to protect DACA grantees, and I believe any comprehensive overhaul must include strengthened family reunification policies, as well as a pathway to citizenship for the millions of aspiring Americans who will help us grow America’s economy and enrich our diverse culture.
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?
As managing director of the City and County of Honolulu, I had a seat on the Military Affairs Council of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, and I got to see firsthand the incredible contributions the U.S. military makes to protecting the American people and to Hawaii’s economy. Given the rising importance of U.S. foreign policy in places like North Korea and China, Hawaii will continue to be a crucial strategic location from which America can project force and conduct diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Hawaii and the U.S. Armed Services should continue to work together to build on its longstanding relationship to ensure that we are protecting Hawaii’s environment and our cultural values.
11. What specific reforms, if any, would you seek in gun control policies?
Under my leadership as attorney general, Hawaii is leading the nation with responsible, common sense gun laws to stop the tragic shootings we see across the country. I am proud that Hawaii was the first state to take on the NRA and require more rigorous FBI background checks for gun owners, keeping guns out of the hands of stalkers, sexual harassers, and the seriously mentally ill.
Hawaii has the lowest gun death rate in the nation because of our responsible limitations on who, and what types of weapons, the people of Hawaii may possess. It’s time for Congress to get its act together and protect our students and our citizens.
12. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
As a former prosecutor of more than 15 years, I have seen firsthand that the U.S. criminal justice system treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent. We must do better. I will advocate for badly needed criminal justice reforms to sharply reduce America’s immoral over-incarceration rates, especially among minority populations.
I will also proudly support removing any federal barriers to creating a safe legalized cannabis industry in Hawai‘i.