In heated debate, candidates for Congress seek to differentiate themselves — and one another

2018 Democratic Congressional Debate
Updated: Jul. 2, 2018 at 9:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A half dozen seasoned politicians are vying for votes in the Democratic primary in hopes of claiming the seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

And on Monday night, they had the chance to duke it out as part of HNN's Super Debate at Kamehameha Schools-Kapalama.

And duke it out, they did. At several points, the debate got heated, including when state Rep. Kaniela Ing asked state Rep. Beth Fukumoto to explain her voting record while she was a Republican.

Later, Congressman Ed Case asked state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim why she was portraying herself as the most experienced candidate in the race.

"Will you retract that?" he asked. "I will not retract that," she said.

Case responded, "You're a full-time politician and I don't think that's the right way to go."

When it was Kim's turn to ask a question, she directed it at Case, asking why he was absent for so many votes when he served in Congress. Case disputed the statistic she quoted, urging her to, "Check your facts, Donna."

Kim then shot back, pointing out that Case ran against U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka. "I will not use the seat as a springboard," she said.

The first question candidates had to tackle was on the lack of civility in Washington.

They were asked: "Many consider the president's tweets and statements insulting and provocative while his critics are literally heckling administration officials out of restaurants. Our delegation has been highly critical of the president. Will you go to Washington ready to join the anti-Trump fight — or seeking middle ground?"

Most of the contenders said they weren't interested in focusing on a battle with President Trump.

"The president can do what he wants to do," said Kim. "Let's fight for Hawaii."

State Rep. Kaniela Ing said he's more interested in pushing back against the Democratic political machine in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Doug Chin said it's vital to push back against the president while remaining civil.

He added that the president's "hateful, hurtful agenda" is putting families locally and nationally at risk.

The candidates are running for the Congressional District 1 seat, which covers the south side of Oahu, from Hawaii Kai to Kapolei and Mililani.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's surprise decision to run for governor created an irresistible vacancy in Hawaii's congressional delegation.

The last to enter the race — on the final day to file — was Case. Name recognition and experience in Washington, though, made him an immediate front-runner.

On Monday night, he sought to highlight his record. "I have already been there," he said.

And political analyst Colin Moore said that played well for him.

"I think Ed Case won this," he said. "He emphasized his experience. He did everything he needed to do."

Chin, meanwhile, was one of the early front-runners. During his two years as state attorney general, Chin led the state's legal fight against President Trump's travel bans.

Kim is taking her second run at the seat. The former state senate president was known for grilling state officials. She'll remain in the state senate if she doesn't win the congressional seat.

Fukumoto generated national headlines for leaving the Republican Party after being attacked for her anti-Trump comments and progressive positions.

Ing, meanwhile, may have lost ground when he was fined more than $15,000 for campaign spending violations as a state House candidate — and was criticized for touting a master's degree that he hadn't earned.

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

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