Editor’s Note: In June 2012, Civil Beat sent 10 questions to each of the candidates registered to run in the Aug. 11 primary for U.S. Representative Congressional District 2. Seven of the eight responded, including Mufi Hannemann. The questions and answers are reproduced below in full. Read responses by Tulsi Gabbard, Esther Kiaaina and Bob Marx to see how Hannemann’s positions compare to those of his main competitors. Click on each topic listed below to read Civil Beat’s question and Hannemann’s response.

1. President Obama has significantly increased the use of drones to assassinate terrorist targets. The policy has been criticized for denying due process rights for at least one American target, and for the collateral killing of civilians. Do you support this policy — why or why not?

I am concerned about the impact that drone strikes have on our foreign policy and ability to effectively engage with partners in the Middle East and elsewhere.
In general, I believe that drone operations should be limited to extraordinary instances, and must be conducted in a precise way that is consistent with American law and values. The President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA ought to be transparent, accountable, and forthcoming when it comes to the use of drone strikes on terrorist targets. Members of Congress ought to be briefed on these operations on a frequent basis, and its effectiveness and impacts on our foreign policy efforts should be regularly reviewed. ↩ back to top

2. Transportation and infrastructure are critical to an island state — especially the neighbor islands. How would you work to increase federal support for Hawaii’s roads, airports and harbors?

I am proud of my administration’s work as Mayor in securing federal funds for Oahu’s roadways, sewers, housing, mass transit, and other needed projects. Having been the recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars of grants and funds as Mayor, I am very familiar with the steps required to secure federal money, and would be a strong partner for the state and county governments in the future.

I will also be an effective advocate to explain to my colleagues and members of the administration about why improvements to Hawaii infrastructure should be prioritized. For example, with tourism from Asia on the rise, there is a need for improvements to airports that serve destinations which Asian travelers have shown an interest in visiting, such as Kona. A strong federal partner will be needed to ensure that its modernization program receives a share of federal funds so the Big Island can reap the benefits of international visitor spending. In the future, Kahului Airport could very well make it on the list. ↩ back to top

3. A divided U.S. Congress has not been able to come to agreement on how to lower the federal debt, in spite of bipartisan recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission and others. What is your evaluation of those recommendations, which include hard decisions regarding entitlement programs, defense spending and taxes?

Our leaders on Capitol Hill cannot continue to evade responsibility for tough decisions on America’s budget deficit. I believe they must step up, cast their votes, and take ownership of our current fiscal situation.

I have also always believed that leadership begins at the top. As Mayor, I instituted five percent pay cuts for my Cabinet members in 2009 in recognition of the economic downturn. We were the first local government entity to do so. In this vein, I would call for immediate reductions in Congressmembers’ salaries and agree with many of the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations, particularly their recommendation to reduce Congressional and White House budgets. Any cuts made can be incrementally restored as the economy improves.

We must find an appropriate combination of spending cuts and revenue enhancements, just as we did at Honolulu Hale during my time as Mayor. If elected to Congress, I will take with me the principles I learned and applied in balancing the budget of the 13th largest municipality in the United States. My administration won numerous awards and commendations for our prudent fiscal policy practices. ↩ back to top

4. The major issue for most candidates is jobs and the economy. Can you identify a concrete example of how you as representative would go about stimulating growth both nationally and in Hawaii?

Travel and tourism has proven to be a key source of growth, revenue, and jobs not only in Hawaii but all across the United States; after all, tourism is the #1, #2, or #3 industry in nearly every town, city, and state nationwide.

I have been speaking out for many years about the importance of easing of visa restrictions to stimulate more travel from countries like China and others in the Asia-Pacific Region. As a U.S. representative, I would continue to build upon the successes of the 2009 Travel Promotion Act, which I lobbied for as chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Standing Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment, and Sports and continued to support as President and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association.

According to a study done by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA), Chinese travelers reported that the major obstacles to securing visas included the length of time it takes to get an interview at a U.S. consulate, the cost of the visa, the absence of a refund for a rejection, and the distance required to travel to a U.S. consulate. It was further found that the United States has inefficient and unpredictable visa application approval procedures, insufficient personnel to process and interview applicants, poor access to consulates, and poor planning and communication to applicants in these growing markets.

I would work with the State Department to ensure that they have the resources necessary to streamline visa reviews and recapture the 17 percent overseas travel market share we once held. I will also support the efforts of BrandUSA to market the United States internationally as a visitor destination for the first time. Other nations have been doing this for years. With local restaurateur Roy Yamaguchi, who serves on the board of this public-private partnership, I would also try to identify opportunities to see how Hawaii can benefit from BrandUSA’s marketing efforts.

If we had kept pace with other nations in attracting foreign travel, the U.S. economy would have welcomed 78 million more travelers over the past 10 years. $606 billion in revenue would have been injected into the economy and more than 467,000 jobs would have been created. Going forward, recapturing that 17 percent would mean 98 million more visitors, create 1.3 million more jobs by 2020, and inject nearly $860 billion into the U.S. economy at very little cost to taxpayers.

I have also put forward the notion of Hawaii serving as the pilot location for a possible Chinese visa waiver program. With Hawaii’s experience in welcoming Japanese, Korean, and other visitors, our islands should be leading the way in demonstrating that hospitality and security can be appropriately balanced when it comes to visitors from China. ↩ back to top

5. Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, what would your goals be in terms of health care policy as a representative? Would you support universal health care?

The Supreme Court’s ruling last week was a vindication of the efforts of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for the American people. I have always believed that all Americans deserve healthcare policies that increase choice for consumers within the insurance market; contain costs for individuals, employers, and small businesses; strengthen Medicare coverage for our seniors; and, most importantly, encourage better patient care and health outcomes.

In Congress, I will work to ensure that the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented in a responsible way that reduces costs, expands coverage, and enhances the health of Americans nationwide. ↩ back to top

6. Global warming is real, and rising sea levels will certainly impact Hawaii. What steps would you take as a U.S. Representative to mitigate the effects of global warming?

Immediately after taking office as mayor, I signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement on behalf of the City and County of Honolulu. Under the agreement, 1,139 cities from across the country agreed to strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in their own communities.

Furthermore, I’m very proud of my work as Mayor of Honolulu in launching the city’s first sustainability plan – the 21st Century Ahupua’a. The program focused on energy conservation, use of alternative fuels, improved public transportation, recycling, solar energy and protection of Hawai‘i’s agricultural lands and environmental treasures. The 21st Century Ahupua‘a plan was honored as the best sustainability program in the country by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and its projects, policies and implementation earned Honolulu ever-higher rankings among America’s most sustainable cities.

In Congress, I will support efforts to leverage Hawaii’s abundant renewable energy resources, including solar, wind, geothermal, ocean, and bio-fuels through tax incentives, federal investments, public-private partnerships, and other initiatives to reduce our reliance on carbon-emitting fossil fuels, and urge my colleagues to push for the same in their communities. ↩ back to top

7. Longtime D.C. observers say the inability of the two major parties to work with each other has never been worse, especially in the U.S. House. Many experienced leaders are leaving office rather than continue in such a hostile climate. Is compromise necessary to governance — and if so, how would you reach out to your colleagues to craft and pass legislation?

Compromise is absolutely necessary for effective governance.

Hawaii has had a long history of representatives with the ability to work across the aisle. I can think of no better example of this than our own senior senator, Daniel K. Inouye, who worked so diligently with Republicans like Ted Stevens of Alaska, Bob Dole of Kansas, and Barry Goldwater of Arizona to get things done for the American people. Because of these relationships, we always had friends upon whom we could call, regardless of which party happened to be in the majority at the time.

I have a track record of bringing people together and working with people of both parties and all viewpoints to get results for the people I represent. I have had the opportunity to work in Washington under four different presidents—Carter and Clinton, two Democrats, and Reagan and Bush, two Republicans—and have developed many long-standing and effective relationships on Capitol Hill. I have worked as a White House Fellow on the staff of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, served on labor committees under Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, lobbied Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to save jobs at Pearl Harbor, and petitioned President Obama and his administration to get APEC and transportation funding for Honolulu.

If elected to Congress, I will be able to leverage these relationships to ensure that Hawaii’s interests are served. ↩ back to top

8. How is the 2nd Congressional District different from the 1st Congressional District? Or are their issues largely the same?

As a small state, Hawaii’s entire delegation needs to work together to ensure that our voice — composed of only 4 members out of 100 senators and 435 representatives — is not lost in the fray. I am proud of my track record of working with our delegation to deliver results on issues that matter for residents of both districts, such as lobbying to save local jobs, securing infrastructure funding for all four counties, and promoting Hawaii tourism worldwide.

On the other hand, there are several areas where the needs of the 2nd district differ from those of the 1st district. One such area is farming and agriculture.

Through my career in both the private and public sector, I have been a strong proponent of Hawaii agriculture. I began my private sector career as an executive with C. Brewer & Co., at the time one of Hawaii’s largest agribusinesses, and later, as Director of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism during the Waihee Administration, I worked hard to promote Hawaii-grown products in overseas markets.

As Mayor, I involved the City in supporting the agricultural industry by reducing property tax rates on farm land, curbing the theft of crops, collaborating with the Hawaii Farm Bureau on soil conservation, opening a farmers market in Downtown Honolulu, and saving homes for agricultural workers at Kunia Plantation Village. On the congressional level, I pledge to continue to work hard for our local farmers and food producers.

In May, I was the only 2nd Congressional District candidate to attend a forum dedicated to agricultural issues. At the forum, I shared several ideas on how we can do more to reinvigorate our local agriculture industry and increase Hawaii’s food self-sufficiency, such as removing barriers to local farmers and ranchers to put Hawaii’s agricultural lands to productive use, extending credit assistance and loan guarantee programs, expanding market access overseas for Hawaii-grown products, and public-private partnerships to support agriculture and promote Hawaii goods. ↩ back to top

9. What is the best thing the 112th Congress did, and why? What’s the worst thing, and why?

The reckless brinksmanship on display during last year’s debt ceiling debacle marked the lowest point of the 112th Congress. Not only did ideologues take our nation to the brink of default, but our representatives in Congress punted the tough decisions to a “supercommittee” and resorted to “sequestration” instead of coming together to make tough decisions as they had done for over 200 years.

There were, however, bright spots, including last month’s passage of the MAP-21 Transportation Bill, which extends federal highway, road, and transit programs for 27 more months, helps to accelerate needed infrastructure improvements, and stimulates much-needed jobs, all while reducing the federal budget deficit by $16.3B over the next ten years. The bill also included a provision to extend lower student loan rates for another year, which will save over 16,000 Hawaii students nearly $1,000 each. ↩ back to top

10. What is an issue you think is important to address as a U.S. House candidate — one that perhaps has not been given sufficient attention during the campaign?

I have always believed that the members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation must be able to speak with authority on issues relating to Asia and the Pacific.

As a former Administrative Assistant for Pacific Island Affairs for Governor Ariyoshi, Special Assistant in the Office of Territorial and International Affairs in the Department of the Interior under President Carter, and former Representative to the South Pacific Commission under President Clinton, I am very familiar with the issues of mutual interest between the United States and the Pacific Islands, such as migration, defense, tourism, climate change, public health, and environmental protection. As Congressman, I will work to support policies and programs that promote stability and prosperity throughout the South Pacific.

Furthermore, having worked as DBEDT Director, Director of the State Office of International Affairs, City Councilman, and Mayor with officials in countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines on economic, trade, and tourism-related issues, I have seen first-hand how important it is for the United States to engage with our partners in Asia and the Pacific to advance our common objectives. As Congressman, I will work to strengthen our security alliances and enhance our economic ties across the Pacific. ↩ back to top