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Honolulu Civil Beat - Hanabusa, Hirono Split Vote on Ag Disaster Bill

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By Chad Blair

Colleen Hanabusa and Charles Djou ran in three separate elections -- a special, primary and general election -- for the 1st Congressional District just two years ago.

Folks who paid close attention to the 2010 contests may remember Djou, the moderate Republican who held the seat briefly after winning the special election, for talking a lot about his opposition to taxes.

They might remember Hanabusa, the liberal Democrat who won the seat in the general, for talking a lot about island values.

Two years later, it's a rematch, with both candidates facing only token opposition in the Aug. 11 primary. In the shadow of hot races for the U.S. Senate and Honolulu mayor, the contest has been very quiet.

Djou, a former state legislator and Honolulu council member, and Hanabusa, a former state Senate president in her first term in Congress, lay out their different experiences and views in answering Civil Beat's candidate surveys. The issues addressed include dealing with debt and deficit reduction, halting global warming and helping island infrastructure through federal support.

We also asked how they would work successfully in a U.S. House of Representatives so sharply divided along partisan lines. It was the 2010 election, after all, that sent the tea party to Washington.

In such a climate, how would Djou and Hanabusa reach out to colleagues to craft and pass legislation? Both said the answer lies with leaders who can work across the aisle.

"I believe the challenge facing the current Congress has been that too often, politics have replaced principle at the center of disagreements," said Hanabusa. "The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, for example, began as a Republican proposal; for reasons of politics, opposition to the mandate has grown into a political talking point for that party's faithful."

Hanabusa acknowledged how the disagreements have made it very difficult to accomplish much: "The biggest challenge facing Congress is still the partisan atmosphere that prevents action in so many of the areas in which we should be more productive."

Djou did not seem as concerned, stating that the solution to gridlock is bipartisan representation.

"If elected, I will never forget that I work for the people of Hawaii, not any political party or special interest," he said. "During my term in Congress, the National Journal rated me as one of only nine truly 'centrist' members of Congress."

Of note: Djou served in a House controlled by Democrats, while Hanabusa serves in one controlled by the GOP.

One other observation from our surveys: Hanabusa's answers are generally much longer than Djou's -- a total word count of 1,885 versus 705.

Longer is not necessarily better than shorter, of course -- or the reverse. But it does provide some insight into these two candidates: Hanabusa, for example, likes to consider the complexity of issues while Djou reaches concise, clear positions.

That same pattern, by the way, was evident in the survey answers both candidates provided Civil Beat in 2010. Read Djou's 2010 answers here and Hanabusa's 2010 answers here.

The CD1 candidates' answers to our 2012 survey, meantime, are linked at the end of this article.

The Long and Short on Drones

Civil Beat asked our congressional candidates a question about drones because their use has dramatically escalated under the Obama administration.

We asked the candidates, "The policy has been criticized for denying due process rights for at least one American living abroad, and for the collateral killing of civilians. Do you support this policy -- why or why not?"

The answers from Hanabusa and Djou were true to form:

Here's Djou's, all of two sentences:

As an Army combat veteran who worked with drones in Afghanistan, I have seen how drones have saved lives and minimized both allied and enemy casualties. While not perfect, the use of drones is appropriate in military combat.
And here's Hanabusa's far more detailed response:

This is a very complicated question and deserves a thorough answer.

To date, I have been outspoken in my disagreement with some U.S. military policies; I opposed our involvement in Libya and have called for an immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. I also opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq from the beginning of that conflict. I believe it is critically important, as a member of Congress, to thoroughly consider our nation's involvement in foreign conflicts.
In deciding to enter into a conflict, Congress does not have all of the information that the President does, but we do have the power to demand answers to critical questions. The President employs military force as authorized in the context of a conflict authorized against recognized enemy combatants. Congress must examine the administration's case very carefully before authorizing the use of force or entering into military engagements.

Our decisions on military deployment and the defense of our nation must consider the realities of armed conflict. War costs lives, both those of our own forces and of others--some civilians--in the areas in which the conflicts play out. If we could protect our nation and advance our legitimate strategic goals without the loss of a single civilian life, we would do so. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Unmanned aerial vehicles have given our military a means to respond to threats and carry out military missions without placing our forces in harms way. They allow us to pursue legitimate security goals without endangering the lives of the men and women who serve in our military. Drones have also demonstrated their value in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles.

The individual you refer to, Anwar al-Awlaki, was a senior member of al-Qaeda who had repeatedly called for jihad against the United States, and helped plan the group's attacks. By his own words and actions, he was an enemy combatant who sought to kill Americans. He made himself a military target, and was killed in a military operation.

The general election is Nov. 6.


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