Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Battle Over The Honolulu Congressional Seat-- One Progressive And A Whole Lot Of DINOs


So far this cycle, when we've talked about Hawai'i politics it's almost always been about a Senate primary in which corrupt New Dem Colleen Hanabusa is challenging progressive Senator Brian Schatz. But there's another important race in Hawai'i, which is not unrelated-- to fill the Honolulu-based House seat Hanabusa is giving up (HI-01).

For one of the bluest states in the nation-- Hawaii gave Obama 71% of its votes in 2012 and the state legislature is made up of 24 Democrats and just one Republican in the Senate and 44 Democrats and 7 Republicans in the House-- there are an overabundance of conservatives running for the seat. HI-01 has a PVI of D+18. Two very conservative front-runners, each of whom would be a right-wing Republican in any other state, have huge name recognition and been discussed here before, state Senate president Donna Mercado Kim and Mufi Hannemann. And they're not the only awful political hacks offering up their services to the voters. Anti-homeless people jihadi Ikaika Anderson actually is a Republican, opportunistically running as a Democrat. A carpet-bagger, he does;t live in the district, was once registered as a Republican, ran for office as a Republican in the past and is from one of Hawai'i's Big Money GOP families. His uncle, is one of the state's Republican Party mainstays and he's running Anderson's campaign.

As Senate president, Donna Kim has fought against LGBT equality (over and over and over again) and, last year-- before she decided to run for Congress-- against raising the minimum wage. She's a real piece of work and many people say she's far worse even than Hanabusa, already one of the worst Members of Congress and a disgrace to the memory of Patsy Mink. Kim is an Ed Case "Democrat" and is one of the leaders of the Republican wing of Hawai'i's Democratic Party.

State Rep Mark Takai has also thrown his hat into the ring-- and immediately switched his anti-LGBT position to make himself seem less of a right-wing asshole. And state Senator Will Espero, like Anderson, is a "former" Republican. Running as a Republican in 1992, he lost his first bid for the state legislature but then switched parties and was appointed to the House by Governor Ben Cayetano when Paul Oshiro resigned.

Former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hannemann is even worse! A former Reagan aide, he doesn't even male believe he's anything but a right-wing extremist. He's vehemently anti-Choice and one of Hawai'is most dedicated homophobes. He's another "Democrat" of convenience.

There's one progressive in the race, Honolulu City Councilmember Stanley Chang, who wrote a guest post for us early in December explaining why he wants to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus, originally co-founded by Patsy Mink. "I am a lifelong Democrat and a proud progressive," he wrote, "and in my time in public service, I’ve built a strongly progressive record. If elected to Congress, I would be honored to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus to continue fighting for the values I’ve built my public service record around."

A graduate of Harvard Law, Chang also wrote recently that his "inspiration in public service comes from Senator Elizabeth Warren. I’ll never forget my first day of law school, when she burst through the doors of our classroom and immediately started firing questions about our first case-- an intensely Socratic style that one friend called “the most fun I never want to have again.” She has brought the passion of her classroom style to her advocacy work. At one of the many student receptions she hosted at her own home, she told us, 'I’m doing all my work in bankruptcy and advocacy in Washington for the middle class. The middle class are getting squeezed in every direction, and there’s no one fighting for them.' That’s the direct inspiration for our campaign for Congress.

"When my dad came here with nothing, as an immigrant from China in the 1960s, he was able to work his way up from a job as a beach boy to a professor at UH. He was able to buy a home, put my brother and me through school, and give us opportunities we never could have had anywhere else in the world. Today, with home prices at an average $685,000, our middle class stands no chance. As a result, our best and brightest are our biggest export.

"Ensuring that every generation of young people in Hawaii can realize the American dream-- to start a family, have a good career, and buy a home-- is my goal in public service."

And this race for the HI-01 House seat won't be the first time Chang has had to deal with a hidebound Democratic Establishment. This one is shaping up very much like his first run for City Council.
In my 2010 race for Honolulu City Council I was in a crowded primary (not unlike this race) of seven candidates. Our main opponent was a well-known and self-funded lawyer who was heavily backed by party insiders. I was repeatedly told I had “no chance” against the party apparatus and my opponent’s years of relationships and money connections. I was told I was too young and I should wait my turn.

I sincerely felt that the issues that face Honolulu and Hawaii were too important, too urgent, to wait any longer. So I pulled together an amazing team of volunteers and grassroots activists and raised more money than had ever been raised for a Honolulu City Council race. I spent 18 months full time on the campaign, and I personally knocked on over 9,000 doors to make an emotional and personal connection with the voters.

Now I’m doing it again, and hearing all the same suggestions from many in the party establishment. “You’re too young, wait your turn, your opponents have been elected forever-- you can’t compete.” But again I believe we simply cannot wait to address the concerns of not only the 19,000 homes my campaign visited, but also the entire Congressional district and the country.

On its surface, Hawaii is one of the bluest states in the country, but in reality, Democratic politics in Hawaii is complicated. Many of our elected officials are DINOs because in most parts of this state Republicans simply cannot win. It can be frustrating to watch career politicians in this race, including two former Republicans, suddenly discover their progressive beliefs now that it is helpful in winning a Democratic primary. I’m proud not to need to change a single position to win this race as the progressive candidate.

I’m proudly liberal and progressive, not for political convenience, but because I am a true believer.

…Three of our recent issues include marriage equality, protecting our environment by making our beaches smoke free, and fighting for greater gun control in Honolulu.

Even though the issue was not before the City Council, I am proud to have been one of the first elected officials in Hawaii to publicly and enthusiastically support marriage equality. Many state legislators had consistently voted against civil unions, including current Congressional candidates Mark Takai, Will Espero, and Donna Mercado Kim. I introduced a resolution expressing the Council’s support for civil unions. I also participated in rallies, visibility events at the Capitol, and provided quotes and photos to Hawaii United for Marriage, the umbrella group coordinating the marriage equality movement here.

In order to clean up our beaches and public places, I built strong working relationships with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, BEACH (Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii) and CTFH (Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii). Pushing this legislation through would simply not have been possible without their help. We started small: we just rolled up our sleeves and started cleaning the beaches ourselves. And as we moved around the island cleaning the beaches people took notice. I’m happy to say that after months of hard work the City Council passed (in some cases, over opposition from my CD-1 candidate Ikaika Anderson) and the Mayor signed bills banning smoking on our beaches, in our public parks and at our public bus stops. Thanks to our combined efforts our parks and beaches and cleaner and healthier than ever before.

I have also championed gun control legislation during my time on the City Council. While Hawaii already enjoys statistically low gun-related crimes and deaths per year than many of our other states I will not stop pushing for greater gun violence prevention legislation and hope that our efforts can serve as a model for other cities and states across the country. I worked closely with ALICE to create legislation that could work in Honolulu focusing on Shot Spotter technology that can pinpoint the origin of gunshots. We are currently still researching ways to enhance the gun safety laws of Honolulu.

…Three simple words: Medicare for All. That is the system that will be able to provide healthcare for every American in a cost-effective and efficient way, as most of the developed world found long ago.

I was disappointed with the Democratic strategy with health care reform. Our president took great pains to use a conservative plan and listen to Republicans in Congress and accept 177 Republican amendments only to have them all vote against it and campaign heavily against it. Progressives (and Democrats) need to start playing offense. We need to make clear, contrasting, and convincing arguments and stick to them. We need to have a plan, write it down and refer to it often. Our solutions are better but we find timidity and concession all throughout our ranks. We need to not be afraid to be teachers-- if only 40% of your district agrees with your positions don’t back down-- get yourself out into the community and convince them with the merits of the issue.
If you'd like to chip in to help keep Hawai'i blue, you can contribute to Stanley Chang's campaign here on the DWT Act Blue page.

UPDATE: Is There Really Any Chance Hanabusa Will Change Her Mind Again?

Over the weekend there was a lot of speculation in Honolulu that despite typically dirty politics urged on her by EMILY's List, Hanabusa was on the verge of throwing in the towel and seeing if she could salvage her House seat. Her fundraising is reported to be fairly miserable and polls show Brain Schatz beating her badly.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz has raised $3.4 million in his election bid, bringing in $704,600 in the latest election cycle.

That compares with $1.6 million total raised by his opponent in the Senate Democratic primary, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. She took in $454,700 in the fourth quarter.
Are all the arms manufacturers, war contractors and Big Pharma lobbyists already maxed out to Hanabusa? Or maybe they just don't want to waste more money on a losing candidate?

With yet another bad quarterly report, Hanabusa may be tempted to try sticking with her safe congressional seat. But even that wouldn't be easy with upstart progressive Stanley Chang in the race to win. Or perhaps she'd be less embarrassed to end her career by losing to Schatz than to Chang.

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