Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Ed Case, Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, which covers urban Oahu. His opponent is Republican Conrad Kress.

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

Candidate for 1st Congressional District

Ed Case
Party Democratic
Age 69
Occupation Congressman
Residence Kaneohe

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

U.S. representative (2019-present; 2002-2007); Hawaii state representative (1994-2002); Manoa Neighborhood Board (1985-1989).

1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?

The overall cost of living, which pervades all parts of our lives, from housing and food to transportation, health care, utilities, education and more. That, plus current high inflation, has made it impossible for too many local folks to live in our own home.

The causes and solutions lie at all levels of federal, state and local government, and require sustained and coordinated effort. In Congress, I have focused on federal actions in each area, beginning with federal funding through our House Committee on Appropriations, where I’ve served since 2019, to support affordable housing, expand food supplies and distribution, improve roads and transit systems, transition to renewable energy, bolster our social safety net, strengthen our education system, and more.

I have also focused on specific causes, including the Jones Act, which unfairly adds a huge surcharge to the cost of just about everything we need to live in Hawaii, and prescription drugs, where the large drug companies are charging outrageous amounts at the expense of us all.

But these actions must all be complemented with strong state, local and community leadership, where many of the high-cost drivers must also be addressed, making voters’ choices for those leaders equally important.

2. What can the U.S. Congress do about mass shootings in America? Would you support banning military-style assault weapons and establishing universal background checks? What other measures would you propose to reduce gun violence?

Epidemic gun violence in our country is a national tragedy and a national disgrace. Reasonable, law-abiding citizens should be able to own and enjoy guns. But that should be subject to reasonable regulations that minimize the clear and real risks to us all from the wrong guns in the hands of the wrong people.

We need look no further than our own Hawaii, which for decades has adopted and implemented a careful balancing of those rights which is in line with most of the countries of our world where gun violence is a fraction of that in our own country.

In Congress I have fully supported national reforms modeled on those successful approaches, including taking weapons of war, like military-style assault rifles and their high-capacity ammunition clips, off our streets and implementing universal background checks to identify those predisposed to violence and reasonably regulate when and under what circumstances they can own and access guns.

3. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the questions of whether the 2020 election was stolen have shown how seriously divided the nation is. Some say democracy itself is in trouble. How would you work to end the political polarization that divides both the Congress and the country?

I was on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, and knew it was not just an assault on our Capitol, but an assault on our democracy and an embarrassment of our country. It is not excused by deep political division and polarization.

But we must face that polarization, which divides us deeply just when critical challenges most demand unity. We can all start by just talking story more civilly, considering why others see things differently and where we might agree. Same for Congress. Deep debate and disagreement and votes to decide them are part of democracy, and I have no hesitation in making those decisions. But I try to understand different perspectives and whether and where we might agree.

My Appropriations Committee is one productive area: I disagree with some of my colleagues on many issues, but I work with them on common concerns like the Indo-Pacific and funding remediation and closure of Red Hill. I also am a member of the House Problem Solvers Caucus made up of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans that tries to consider and act on areas of agreement on some of our toughest issues. Congress’ landmark $1.1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Package was one result.

4. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while currently financially sound, risk future funding concerns because of changing demographics. What would you propose to shore up the country’s major safety net programs?

Social Security and Medicare are among our country’s most critical and successful programs ever, literally saving lives, lifting out of abject poverty and providing some measure of safety and security for tens of millions of Americans throughout three generations. Our first and foremost commitment must be to save and strengthen them.

But the reality is that they are on a critically endangered path where under their own projections and without action to shore them up they will be forced to reduce benefits sometime in the next decade or so.

That clearly must not and will not happen, and the actions we must take are generally no different than any of us must face to keep our own home or business budget sustainable. The options are all difficult, and I have joined colleagues in bipartisan, bicameral (House and Senate) legislation to at least start with a reasonable and direct process to sort through and identify the best and fairest options for our decision.

One specific option I support is to lift the current salary cap on maximum Social Security taxes because I believe it is fair that those with higher incomes should pay more into Social Security.

5. What is your position on the Senate filibuster?

The Senate filibuster, requiring a supermajority of 60 senators to pass most legislation (versus a simple majority of 50%-plus-one in the House), is not a law but a rule of the Senate which it can continue, modify or eliminate.

It is a tragedy that so much critical legislation passed by the House, from voting rights to campaign reform, reasonable gun regulation, women’s right of choice and more, has failed in the Senate because of the filibuster. But the filibuster can also be viewed as a check and balance against problem legislation; in other words, tread carefully and be careful what you wish for.

For example, Senate confirmation of appointments of federal judges was once subject to the filibuster, but in 2013 a Democratic majority ended that and went to straight majority for federal judges other than the U.S. Supreme Court. That led later to a Republican majority ending it for Supreme Court justices, which led directly to the current Supreme Court.

If I were a senator, I would be looking at targeted reforms to modify or end the filibuster in key areas such as civil rights where a minority should not be permitted to obstruct progress on widely supported initiatives.

6. Is the U.S. on the right path when it comes to mitigating climate change and growing renewable energy production? What specific things should Congress be considering?

We’re on the right path, but frustratingly we’re not moving along that path as quickly or broadly as the existential worldwide crisis of climate change demands.

On the positive side, our $1.1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Package, which I helped develop and pass and which is now law, included the most comprehensive package of climate change initiatives to date. In the U.S. House we have also passed other major climate change legislation, especially in our Build Back Better Act for which I voted, to incentivize carbon-neutral activities throughout our governments, businesses and communities to comply with our worldwide pledges, and more targeted initiatives like our Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act which I co-introduced.

Through my House Appropriations Committee, we have also devoted major and increasing federal funding to research, development and implementation of renewable energy, as well as to our efforts to reengage fully with the world in collective efforts. All of these must be amplified and continued, while we pursue binding agreements on allowable carbon emissions with our fellow major emitters like China.

7. The Jones Act requires that domestic freight transport on U.S. waterways be conducted by crews that are at least three-fourths American, and on vessels built in U.S. shipyards, and that are American-owned. What is your position on this law and its effects on Hawaii? Does it need to be amended or repealed?

The century-old Jones Act requires cargo between U.S. ports to be shipped solely on U.S. ships, thus excluding world shipping from competing on domestic routes. But there are now less than a hundred Jones Act ships in the country and far fewer serving our Hawaii, where well over 90% of the total goods we need — everything from food to lumber for our housing to products for agriculture and more — is imported from the continent.

The Jones Act is especially devastating to small and distant island jurisdictions like Hawaii, where we don’t have access to rail or truck alternatives, as it creates a virtual monopoly over our lifeline to the outside world that comes with some of the highest shipping rates in the world which we all ultimately pay.

That is not acceptable, and I have introduced federal legislation that, for Hawaii and other non-continent parts of our country, would repeal or reform the Jones Act or require that Jones Act shipping rates must follow competitive international rates. I have also urged the president to waive the Jones Act so that international shipping can ship oil from the continent to Hawaii to substitute for the Russian oil we’re (rightly) no longer importing.

8. The Biden administration says China is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. and has been trying to expand its influence, especially in the Pacific. What can the U.S. do to build better relations with the Asia-Pacific region?

I fully agree that China poses our greatest geopolitical challenge. We must act on all levels. A strong and prepared military, especially in the Indo-Pacific, is indispensable, and our Hawaii must continue our critical role.

We must also strengthen our relationships with other countries wherever and however we can. This especially includes our own ohana throughout our Pacific, who need our kokua with critical concerns like climate change, economic stability and security but where we have not been fully engaged. I have especially focused in Appropriations on assuring full funding for all of these efforts.

I have also joined official congressional delegations to countries like the Philippines, Palau, Papua New Guinea and South Korea, because one common theme from throughout the Indo-Pacific is that the United States must “just show up more.”

Further, in 2019 I co-founded the first-ever bipartisan Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus, an official organization within Congress to focus in on highlighting the Pacific and advancing our related initiatives. We developed and introduced our Boosting Longterm U.S. Engagement in the Pacific (BLUE Pacific) Act, which has been largely incorporated in other pending legislation as well as funded through our appropriations process.

9. The Red Hill fuel crisis illustrated not only how critical the military’s role is in Hawaii but also the serious problems it sometimes causes. It is also a central component of the local economy. What would you do to ensure the military behaves responsibly in the islands?

Our military is funded by Congress, subject to Congress’ direction, and overseen by Congress. I use all of those tools to ensure that our military operates responsibly in Hawaii and to avoid and address failures like Red Hill.

Appropriations, where I serve on our Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and focus much of my efforts on Indo-Pacific defense, provides a prime avenue to fund responsible activities and to deny or condition funding for activities that may not be.

Legislation like our annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provide other options to oversee and direct military activities. In our just-passed 2023 NDAA, all nine of my floor amendments, several addressing military activities in Hawaii, were approved (plus another $1 billion for Red Hill).

I also spend time and effort with all branches of our military throughout Hawaii, because effective oversight requires knowledge and relationships. I believe our military wants to be a responsible partner in Hawaii and largely has been. Clearly Red Hill has shattered much of our trust; that must be rebuilt by fulfilling promises to clean up and close Red Hill, as well as through strong and continued communication and oversight backed up by congressional direction and funding. 

10. 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.

Same response as to the same question in 2020:

We have known but virtually ignored for decades the reality that our continually increasing economic reliance not just on travel and tourism but on high-volume, low-cost travel and tourism leaves us increasingly exposed to external disruptions. This accelerating economic and social exposure is just one consequence of our headlong rush for more and more of any kind of tourist. Our natural resources are maxed out, tourism has encroached too far into our everyday lives.

Yes, we must pursue the elusive goal of true diversification. Technology, agriculture, international services, education and related research and development niches like ocean and astronomy are all underdeveloped.

But we should also revisit and diversify travel and tourism itself. The number of visitor arrivals must be capped if not reduced, while maintaining the industry’s overall contributions to our economy and employment opportunities. This can be done by constraining room and visitor supply. Specific methods include: strict enforcement of illegal transient vacation rentals and no further legal vacation rentals; strict application of land use planning and zoning laws to reject any new hotel and resort areas and to limit rebuilding in current areas to current room numbers; and improvements to existing airports but no new gate capacity.

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