Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary Election, 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 Brian Evans, Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 2, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. Other Democratic candidates include Noelle Famera, Kai Kahele and Brenda Lee.
1. The entire country, including Hawaii, has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. What should national leaders be prioritizing to help keep the outbreak under control and repair economic damage done by measures taken to respond to the outbreak? What role can you play as just one of 435 members of the U.S. House to help Hawaii?
I believe that people underestimate the power of one voice. If that voice is especially loud and can be further expressed by the power of those he or she has met to bring attention to a particular matter, all the better. I have been in the entertainment industry for over 35 years and there are few people I haven’t met or worked with within it. So, one voice can mean a lot when there’s a lot of voices behind them.
The “leaders” in this state, all of them, have dropped the ball from day one. There was no “Plan B” during this pandemic and all of them should have seen this coming in some form and be prepared for it. Your job as an elected official is to see what “could happen” not to just deal with what is happening today. It is a job that requires a bit of paranoia, to make sure we have a “Plan B” when catastrophe hits. Beat the problem to the punch.
We could have had green energy, exports, other economic plans established so that we were able to sustain ourselves during a time of crisis, not try to come up with it after the pandemic hits. I am also very concerned about reopening the state until we know what the repercussions are from the recent protests and riots have done in terms of the spread of coronavirus, as it could be a dangerous thing unless we have testing available at all airports coming into Hawaii or we could be opening up Pandora’s box.
2. What would be your first priority if elected? How would that change if your party is in the majority? The minority?
There are several. First, universal basic income is a must. Second, the HEROES Act must be passed. Third, the Native Hawaiians have been made to feel as though their state has been rolled over, sometimes by their own fellow establishment Native Hawaiians who have sold them out so that they could become a part of the establishment that they originally despised when they actually ran for office.
Many of these career politicians have the same “platform” election after election. If their platform still is the same as it was the last time they were elected, then why would any voter have faith in them if they still haven’t accomplished the platform they previously ran on?
Next, we need to push to have citizens who have been victimized by corporations, or medical professionals, or any large mammoth company the right to be appointed an attorney in civil litigation. An individual should not be subject to injustice because he or she cannot afford a $50,000 attorney retainer fee to go after a company, and too many companies use this as a tactic, forcing individuals to file “pro se,” where judges then act as defense attorneys in deciding what case can go forward and what can’t. That is not a judge’s job. By allowing civil litigants the right to counsel it takes a judge’s ability to deprive a citizen’s rights away from them and holds a company accountable when they do someone wrong.
3. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. What should Congress do, if anything, to improve policing and police accountability?
Remove immunity from prosecution. This immunity has provided racists with free rein to do what they want under the color of a blue uniform instead of a white sheet. It gives the police with good intentions a bad name. We have allowed well intentioned police officers to be mixed in with white supremacists and then we slapped a badge on them instead of the handcuffs they deserve.
What we all witnessed was a snuff film with George Floyd. Additionally, we then make the victims out to be the “bad guy” when they dig up their past as a way to justify their actions. Most of these politicians do far worse but haven’t been caught. Throwing someone’s past in their face who has overcome and redeemed themselves is not justification to minimize them, and certainly not for murder. If someone broke the law and paid their debt to society, they deserve a second chance.
Police are not above the law, they are there to protect people under the law. We are supposed to look up to them, not fear them.
Our current president incites racists, then tweets his disgust over racial violence when his message instigated it. He has zero credibility in this regard.
I find it appalling that my opponent in this race, Kai Kahele, voted against House Bill 285, which holds police accountable for misconduct and a culture of secrecy, especially with the rampant police brutality that has been the cause of riots nationwide.
4. Whatever happens in the general election, Congress and the country will likely remain deeply divided. What specifically would you do to help bridge the partisan divide in Washington?
Once this “president” is out of office, I think that will help restore some sense normalcy, but wow, did we all learn a lot about who is in this country.
I’m not talking about immigrants, I’m talking about the hatred of millions of Americans toward BIPOC, gays (I am gay) and immigrants in a country built on them. We need to do a lot to put this country back together, and the last thing we need is establishment politicians who have turned a blind eye on what was brewing to continuously be re-elected.
5. 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?
Decreased. We won the war. We keep propping up military bases like Krispy Kremes. Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians are being deprived of their rights, land they were promised would be returned hasn’t been, and it is likely why the Peace for Okinawa Coalition, with one of their primary functions being to protect Native Hawaiian Rights, has endorsed me over my Native Hawaiian competitor in this race.
I may be a haole, but I am Hawaii’s haole. The country is changing, and I am glad to be a part of that change. It makes me feel better to know that we can evolve into something we always dreamed of, rather than just dreaming about it.
6. 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?
We wouldn’t have the deficits we have if we were thinking outside the box more, rather than electing sheep who follow orders. I don’t find being in the military as a qualification for office. My brother was in the military. My grandfather was in the military (he committed suicide after serving). That was in 1969 when vets didn’t have proper mental health care. In 2020, they still don’t.
Additionally, we need to stop allowing corporations and the wealthy to buy up Hawaii, and when they do, tax the hell out of them so we can fund our own problems. If they want to enjoy the islands, God bless them. But they are going to pay the price to do so.
You have no idea how many times I have walked by mammoth compounds on Maui that rich individuals purchase — that they spend a week a year in. We are not their playground anymore. Locals can’t pay their bills.
We need to repeal the Jones Act. It’s costing local people everything, and it even costs lives as we saw in Puerto Rico. We need to focus on more green energy, exports, creating opportunities for the locals to own a part of the companies that are created.
7. Under what circumstances should America go to war?
If we are attacked, we have the strongest military in the world. When we start wars, we kill innocent people, and those we send to defend our country have lives, families and they shouldn’t be returned in a box because the political establishment wants more oil.
The only circumstances we should go to war is if a foreign country attacks our country. The only time we should get involved is when we see the innocent being slaughtered. We are better, and I don’t mean that from an ego standpoint, I mean it from an integrity standpoint. We must be better. What we’ve witnessed has shown the worst of us, and it is now time for us to show the best of us again.
8. What should the United States do to control carbon emissions and slow climate change?
We need to start listening to scientists and taking their advice. People who know nothing about the scientific aspect of what we do should not be making decisions over scientific matters.
Climate change must be a top priority. We are leaving millennials with a world where they will eventually have to chew the air before they breath it. The time to act is now.
9. Is it time to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? How?
Yes. We need to bring the age to qualify for it down. People work their entire lives and we keep trying to increase the age to qualify. By the time they qualify, they are almost dead. Meanwhile, we will let Amazon make billions and pay no taxes. We let lobbyists dictate our future. I haven’t accepted a dime for my campaign during a pandemic when people can’t pay their bills.
It’s repulsive. By going after these billionaires and now, literally, singular individuals becoming trillionaires, we can fund many of these programs to make it easier to survive for the normal person. The other day I received an email from a kid, he said, “I keep hearing from politicians about how they want the middle class to thrive, but I can’t pay my rent … so what class am I in?” That is a terrible question to be asked, and two words that politicians don’t dare utter: lower class. They don’t even pay attention to them, or see them, but they will use them to wave their signs on the street until they’re elected and never hear from them again.
10. What should be done to reform U. S. immigration policies, if anything?
We are a nation of immigrants. The current policies in place are in place because of a maniac who cares more about his legacy than our lives today. The process for citizenship needs to be expedited, not dragged out for years because a citizen married someone from another country. It causes stress in the relationships, and the delay in processing spousal visas, for example, puts that stress on the relationship and it’s a system that almost seeks to break up a relationship before they begin.
As a nation of immigrants, I support reform that seeks to bring in the best we can bring in. However, the American dream is not supposed to be available to people who will risk dying to hop a fence. Some politicians have been caught hiring illegal aliens to take care of cleaning their homes. That’s OK?
This hypocrisy needs to end. We are America. America gained it’s reputation on being available to all, and people shouldn’t have to die to get here.
11. What specific reforms, if any, would you seek in gun control policies?
I would seek to ban assault weapons.
There also needs to be changes made to HIPAA, so that we aren’t protecting the rights of potential maniacs with guns more than their future victims.
I have personal experience from this as well. A friend of mine is on antipsychotic drugs. I stayed at his apartment for a weekend while I was visiting the area. One night, while sleeping on the couch, I noticed a box which looked like a “pizza” box. I got up and was going to put it the contents of the refrigerator. As I opened the box to put what I believed was pizza in aluminum foil, I discovered it was a fully loaded gun. His intent was to kill himself that night, but I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and was able to remove the gun from his house by having his family come get it.
We are giving guns to people who absolutely should not have them, and the vetting process must include what medications some of these people are taking that have known side effects that can cause them to snap, and when they snap, they are snapping with a fully authorized and licensed gun in their possession and that needs to stop.
The NRA has too much power over this country and politicians. I believe in the Second Amendment, but for those who are not crazy. And I’m sorry, but a responsible gun owner seeking to protect his family does not need a semi-automatic weapon to do it
12. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative but be specific.
Invest in ourselves. Create more green energy. Export more of our products. Do things that let Native Hawaiians know that we are sorry for what we have done to their state and start making it up to them.
Self determination. God knows they can’t do worse than these current politicians have. There needs to be a panel of Native Hawaiians that has actual teeth in any discussion that relates to this state. We walk all over them and then wonder why they’re pissed off.
13. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
The political establishment is imploding, as it should be. One of my opponents in this race relies heavily on his military record. If that’s the case, shouldn’t he be screaming about the 40,000-plus homeless veterans in this country?
Additionally, it is hypocritical for establishment politicians to tell everyone to “run for office, be the change” when they, themselves, endorse a candidate before the deadline to file to run for office has even ended, and without meeting or speaking to the whopping number of three, yes three, other Democratic candidates before making such an endorsement.
It proves that establishment politicians aren’t doing their job right from the beginning. They didn’t have 10 minutes to talk to the other three Democratic candidates before endorsing one?
If elected, half of my salary will be donated to Native Hawaiian charities. This not a job you take to get rich. Yes, it’s true, I once ran and was the nominee for the other side in 2018, but I had to, because no one was listening. I intend to use every entertainment contact I have, to bring to the Hawaiian people what they deserve.
I also believe in term limits, because you need to know, as a public servant, that you only have so much time to get the job done and to fulfill your promises.
I also believe that doctors and nurses must be subjected to polygraph examination in medical malpractice cases. They must not be allowed to lie to protect their negligence in hospitals, and such results should be entered into evidence at any trial.