While repeating their stances on issues facing the next Congress, the candidates for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District also stuck to key campaign themes in a roundtable discussion aired statewide Thursday night on PBS Hawaii’s “Insights.”
From the outset, Democrat Mark Takai sought to tie his opponent, Republican Charles Djou, to the GOP leadership in the U.S. House, specifically House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and tea party Republicans that have been blamed for clogging government with divisive partisanship.
Djou countered and continually returned to his premise that with the House expected to remain in GOP control and the potential for the Senate leadership to switch, it would behoove Hawaii voters to elect someone who could represent the isles in the majority caucus.
“For me, what’s important, is putting Hawaii first and Hawaii’s interests first and who can be that vigorous outspoken advocate that Hawaii so desperately needs right now,” Djou said. “And being able to be that vigorous, outspoken advocate in the majority caucus is more helpful for our community right now.”
Takai argued that the values of the tea party and congressional Republicans, in general, were not in line with traditionally Democratic Hawaii.
“There is a clear choice — there’s a choice in supporting Charles and his tea party Republican friends, or there’s a choice of supporting Mark Takai — a very progressive, family-oriented and working people party person,” Takai said. “I do believe that that matters.
“I think from a values perspective, it’s going to be very important to make sure that we get the person into Congress who represents Hawaii’s values most.”
Takai, a 20-year veteran of the state Legislature, and Djou, a former state representative and city councilman who held the 1st Congressional District seat for seven months after winning a special election in 2010, had multiple opportunities to address issues such as health care reform, Social Security and Medicare, education and the war against Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria, but continually returned to the difference in political philosophy.
Takai noted how Djou at every level of government, voted against omnibus budget bills and while in Congress he supported Simpson-Bowles — a commission established in 2010 to identify policies to improve the naiton’s fiscal situation and bring about long-term sustainability — which advocated for severe cuts in government spending and was supported by tea party Republicans.
“I believe Charles has a track record that we can talk about,” Takai said. “In terms of me being a Democrat – I’m a very proud Democrat and in fact I think it’s important for Hawaii to have a united delegation. We’ve had a united delegation for many years and it’s worked.”
Djou said party labels did not matter to him and quoted Shakespeare in proclaiming “a pox on both of their houses” with respect to the partisan bickering that has plagued Congress.
“For me, it’s not going to be about whether or not I’m going to call some other person a name or cast aspersions on them,” Djou said. “I’ll work with anybody. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. I don’t care if you’re a conservative or a liberal.
“All I care about is are you going to get things done and are you going to make life better for the people of Hawaii.”
The hour-long roundtable, hosted by Darryl Huff of Hawaii News Now, was broadcast statewide on PBS Hawaii. It marks the third time the two have squared off face-to-face since the August primary.
Both repeated their previous positions on other issues, including the Jones Act, the war against the Islamic State and their proposals for reforms to the Veterans Affairs Administration.
Takai supported the Jones Act, which shields the domestic shipping industry from foreign competitions, while Djou supported an exemption to the act for Hawaii that he said would spur economic activity similar to that of regulation of air travel.
While both said they do not support plaving more American troops in harm’s way, Djou said he supports President Barack Obama’s plan for combatting Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria. Takai repeated that he would have voted against the plan but he supports the president’s effort at approaching the issue with a coalition of allies.
On VA reform, Takai said he supported the allocation of additional resources that was approved by Congress to reduce wait times and increase the number of doctors at VA medical facilities. Djou said he supported the change in leadership but added that systemic reforms were required to ensure that similar scandals would not be repeated.