By ERIN MILLER
A U.S. representative’s job, congressional candidate Mufi Hannemann told Rotarians Thursday, is to advocate first for state residents.
“You are a special interest representative,” Hannemann said during the Rotary Club of Kona meeting at King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. “Then again, you have to have the big picture point of view, looking at the budget.”
Hannemann, a Democrat, made his pitch as to why he would be the best spokesman for the neighbor islands and rural Oahu, which make up the state’s second congressional district, citing previous experience in Washington as an appointee under four presidents, two Democrats and two Republicans. Rep. Mazie Hirono is seeking the Democrat’s nomination for U.S. Senate, in the seat longtime Sen. Daniel Akaka is leaving at the end of this year.
He said he has advocated for visa waivers for Chinese visitors in his capacity as the president of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, an issue he said Hawaii’s congressional delegation needs to continue to pursue.
“Hawaii could serve as a model,” Hannemann said. “When we granted visa waivers to Japan, they came to Hawaii first. They got comfortable (with Hawaii). Then they got adventurous and explored elsewhere.”
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, which met in Hawaii last fall, showcased the state as a business, as well as tourism, destination, Hannemann said. That’s an image he could also promote, if elected.
He does not support across-the-board cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, and does support getting adjustments to reimbursements for Hawaii’s doctors, much like physicians in Alaska received through the Frontier Act.
Pressed, during the question-and-answer session at the end of his speech, to choose one area — either defense spending, education funding, Social Security, Medicare or the Farm Bill — to cut the federal budget, Hannemann said he wouldn’t want to cut any of those.
But, if he had to, he said he would look to the Farm Bill first, because Hawaii no longer has the sugar industry that benefited from the bill. He would look second to defense spending, as long as it was defense spending for other parts of the country.
“I shudder to think where we would be if we had a military cutback,” he said.
Hannemann said he does not support repealing the Jones Act, which requires all goods transported on water within the U.S. be done so on U.S. flagged ships, built in the U.S., with U.S. owners and American crews.
“Jobs that go to American workers are very important,” Hannemann said. “It may be cheaper to transport goods, but it will mean a reduction in longshoreman jobs.”
Because of his previous work in Washington, Hannemann said he knows members of Congress and lobbyists for a number of issues. He said he can work in a bipartisan manner, following the lead set by Hawaii’s senior senator, Daniel Inouye.
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