What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?
1. What are your thoughts regarding a potential military conflict with Iran? Would you support military intervention against the regime there, why or why not?
We must make every effort to prevent the situation in Iran from escalating into a military conflict. We need to use every tool we have to convince the government of Iran to behave responsibly: from diplomacy to sanctions. At the same time, we cannot tolerate the threat of such an unstable regime’s possession of nuclear weapons.
2. Would you support cutting military spending and redirect the funding to other budget items? If so, where would you suggest redirecting those fundings?
In these tough economic times, military spending cannot be exempted from budget cuts. At the same time, we must maintain a strong defense and keep our promises to the men and women of the Armed Services and to our veterans. There are certainly savings that can be realized by shifting some of the burden in NATO, for instance, to our allies, and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in weapons procurement. We can alos look to cut from programs we don’t need including an additional $100 billion to study a potential missile defense system for the East Coast that even Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs fo Staff has stated is unnecessary. I would like to see these potential savings invested in workforce development, education, renewable energy, and protecting our environment.
Health Care for All
1. What can be done to make health care more affordable and accessible to the working and middle classes? Do you support Single Payer/enhanced Medicare for All? How do you propose to counteract the opposition of the corporate medical/insurance establishment in passing meaningful health care reform?
Access to health care is a basic human right and is a belief I’ve spent my time in public office fighting for tirelessly. It is unacceptable that people in our country go without health care because they can’t afford insurance. I support a single payer/enhanced Medicare for all system as an efficient and effective option but given the nature of how our health care system has developed in this country it doesn’t appear to be a viable solution at this time. I voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it was the best we could do with the votes we had. I believe that if the ACA is allowed to fully take effect, that medical insurance will become more affordable for the working and middle classes. The law can be improved — the work isn’t over. But there is a major misinformation campaign underway and the law is in danger of being overturned, either by the Supreme Court or by the Congress. This is just one reason why it is so critical that we retain Democratic control of the Senate and re-elect President Obama.
2. Do you support the use of government funds to ensure all women have access to reproductive services?
Women should not be denied reproductive health services, including birth control and abortion, just because they are poor. I am proud of my longstanding 100% rating from NARAL. I would like to see abortion become rare, but to see that happen we need to provide all women with quality reproductive health services and our young people with comprehensive sex eduction.
Accountability of Our Elected Officials/Publicly Financed Elections
1. What would you do to curb the undue influence of corporations on our political process and our society?
I support the availability of publicly financing of campaigns and controlling expenditures on elections, through Citizens United has made it difficult for candidates opting to run publicly financed campaigns to compete in our new reality where the views and money of a wealthy few can influence the outcome of election. We have seen this not just at the statewide and federal level (recently in the Wisconsin recall elections), but also at the local level, in the recent decision by a federal judge in North Carolina to strip judicial candidates of public matching funds. Voters have the right to know who is funding the influx of political ads they see on a daily basis. I have strongly believe that should be increased transparency in the financial disclosures of SuperPACs and corporations should have to stand behind the political ads they fund.
2. How would you best counteract the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC?
I am a cosponsor of H.J.Res. 78, a proposed constitutional amendment to clarify the authority of Congress and the States to regulate the expenditure of funds for political activity by corporations. Additionally, we need to ensure we have an educated and informed future electorate, which means we must invest in better civics education in our schools.
3. Do you support publicly financed elections? If so, given the current landscape, how would you propose to begin moving to implement them?
I support publicly financed elections, however Citizens United has created a landscape which has raised all kinds of questions regarding how elections and democracy function in this country. Therefore I am open to ways to control spending. A critical step is to educate people about what is the impact of Citizens United — are we going to be a nation that looks first to the needs and wants of corporations and the wealthy or are we going to look out for that is best for the majority of our people? Elected officials should be accountable to their constituents, not corporations ro special interests.
4. How would you address forms of voter suppression and intimidation, such as voter ID challenges?
We need to be vigilant and challenge voter suppression whenever and whenever it occurs. Groups that run shadow campaigns and launch misleading robo-calls and other tactics, as seen in the recent Wisconsin recall elections, should be required to identify themselves. We should also look at enhanced penalties for organizations that engage in these suppression activities.
5. Please explain your position on the use of taxpayer money to finance political campaigns directly and equitably, with some of the expenditure being offset by taxing the profits derived by broadcast media from their free use of the publicly owned frequency spectrum.
I believe that public financing of political campaigns should be operated through a general fund and write-off system such as we currently have here in Hawaii. While my likely Republican opponent in this race is busy buying up television stations, I am working to get the message of my people powered campaign to the voters one phone call and one door knock at a time.
1. Please share your thoughts on the President’s budget proposal, versus Rep. Ryan’s proposal, versus the Progressive Caucus proposal. Which would you be likely to support?
While I don’t agree with everything in the President’s budget, I support his focus on jobs, investing in renewable energy and education, and increasing revenue. I voted against the Republican’s Ryan budget this year and last year because it would shred the safety net for our elderly, children, the disabled, and because it will depress rather than help grow our economy. The conservative proposed budget did nothing to help grow jobs or give our middle class families the equal opportunity of a fair share they deserve. I also voted for the Progressive Caucus budget, as I have each year I’ve been a member of Congress.
2. What is your opinion of a financial transaction tax, sometimes called the “Robin Hood Tax,” on Wall Street securities trades as a way to raise revenue, as well as potentially curb speculative trading.
I’ve supported a tax of trades to curb speculative trading.
3. Please explain how you will work on preserve social security for future generations.
It’s crucial that we preserve the social safety net for both workers nearing retirement today and in the future. The first thing we should do is “scrap the cap” on taxing Social Security earnings. At present, income over $106,000 is exempt from the Social Security tax. According to the Social Security Administration, scraping the cap would restore solvency to the Social Security Trust Fund by adding more than $6 billion over 25 years. I’ve cosponsored legislation to this effect.
4. How will unions play a part in working with you to develop labor policy and legislation?
I worked hard to secure a seat on the House Education and Labor Committee when I was first elected to Congress in 2007. Labor unions have made working conditions better for all Americans by setting the standards for benefits, wages, and rights. In my work to expand job opportunities for the people of Hawaii and to be their voice in Congress, I listen to the views of both labor and business.
5. Do you support legislation that would allow states to bypass ERISA and other challenges?
Generally no, though I support Hawaii’s ERISA bypass as it applies to health care coverage which our congressional delegation worked hard to obtain in 1974.
Sustainable Environmental Policies
1. Do you support policies restricting use of the hydro-fracturing process in drilling for natural gas, development of the Canadian tar sands and the associated pipeline, mountain-top removal mining, and the building of new nuclear power plants?
Yes – and my position on these issues are reflected in the votes I’ve taken and the bills I’ve cosponsored.
2. What path do you propose to move the U.S. away from the use of fossil fuels and toward the use of more renewable energy?
As a first step, we must end unneeded subsidies for the oil and gas industries, which are making major profits. We need to reinstate tax credits for the production of renewable energy so that these young industries can develop to the point where they can compete on price with oil and coal. We need to look at the real costs of fossil fuels – the environmental as well as the financial costs. Our country should continue to invest in building a sustainable future created through renewable energy innovation and energy efficiency. To this effect, I have introduced legislation to reallocate funds for fossil fuel research to research and development for clean energy innovation including algae based biofuels, energy grid technology and electric car batteries.
1. What do you feel is the single most, or two most, important issue(s) we face as a nation, and how would you hope to address such issues as our Senator?
Getting our economy moving again and making sure that all Americans have an opportunity to succeed are the most immediate issues we fase as a nation and the top issues that would drive my work in the U.S. Senate. To address these crises, we need to make smart investments in education and workforce development, incentivize innovation, and move more quickly to develop sustainable, climate-friendly renewable energy sources.
2. What makes you the best qualified for the Democratic nomination?
I am a progressive Democrat and I have always worked to represent the people of Hawaii by fighting for the core values of equal opportunity and fair play. I am a doer, not a talker, and I’m running against opponents that just want to talk about solutions but have not taken much action to put the interests of the people of Hawaii first. My commitment and record of working tirelessly to provide expanded opportunities for all people of Hawaii has meant working across the aisle to make sure the voices of all Hawaii’s people are represented in Washington.
3. Can you think of a significant mistake you feel you’ve made during your political career, which you now regret?
We all make mistakes and politics is not a science. I take lessons I learn from each experience and apply them to the decisions I make. in politics, decision must be made and we must deal with whatever the consequences are.
4. Why should progressives vote for you in the primary?
I have a strong record of supporting progressive ideals and values. Additionally, I pledge to never join the Blue Dog coalition.