Coffee with a Candidate: Democratic congressional candidate Ernie Martin

Coffee with a Candidate: Democratic congressional candidate Ernie Martin

North Shore Councilman Ernie Martin reclaimed the council chairmanship while running for Congress, considerably raising his visibility at a key moment.

He's argued he's the right person to represent Hawaii in Washington, D.C., because he won't back down from a fight.

Here are some things you might not know about Martin:

  • He used to be a groundskeeper for the city.
  • Martin has eight siblings.
  • He now has over 20 years of experience working within the city system.

Questions for the candidate:

  • Now, you got a law degree but then you went and started your career at the city training to be a groundskeeper. What’s up with that?

Well, you know, I started very humbly in public service, you know, I had my family when I was fairly young, and I had to enter the work force and I was fortunate actually to get a job as a groundskeeper, it was an employment training program funded by the federal government, that's what got my feet into the door. You know, but like any local person I think, you always aspire to move up. I appreciated the opportunity but I made the best of it, you know, and I eventually moved up and became director of that department, that's where I got my feet wet, so to speak. And you know, at that time when I was a groundskeeper, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed cutting grass, you know, being outdoors.

  • So then you become part of the City Council in 2011 and you’re almost done with two terms now, there’s been talk of you running for mayor, you’re not too great in the polls for Congress here, is this a trial run to run for mayor in 2020?

No, of course not. I tell people the focus right now is to get elected into Congress. No doubt, I'm not gonna deny that I had aspirations to run for mayor itself, you know, in terms of the polls I always laugh when people say "you don't do well in the polls," but I wasn't showing well in the polls when I ran for council, I was way behind, probably farther behind than I am now… I don't know if I'm behind anymore, let's put it that way. But, you know, I think with respect to where I'm at, and the real, if you understand people from Hawaii and the competitiveness that all of us possess, I mean, being an underdog is no big thing. You know, I think that if you easily succumb to what people may think of you then it's easy to admit defeat, but for myself I've always wanted more, not necessarily for myself but in terms of service, service to the community, and I think Congress represents a good opportunity.

  • Now there are 13 people in the race for district 1, so what makes you different from them on the issues?

I think most of the candidates in the primary, the democratic primary, in terms of political ideology, do not differ very much. It's because we're all democrats, we all carry the party platform so to speak. I think what it comes down to is who has a record of accomplishments. Who's delivered with respect to the opportunities he or she has to serve. I think for myself I'm fortunate, I've interacted at the federal level, not just n my role as chairman of the Honolulu city council, but also at the executive level as well, having interacted with many line agency departments. You know, in my own career, I am not a career legislator. I've also served on the executive branch and I don't think there any candidate in the race right now who can say that they worked intimately both within the executive branch and the legislative branch as well. It's a big advantage, knowing both sides.

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