On Saturday, Kalihi residents had the opportunity to hear from seven of the candidates running for U.S. Congress.
It’s been a long time since this many candidates have run for the First District Congressional seat. There are familiar names in the race and some who face an uphill battle.
Candidates from the crowded field for the Democratic primary got a chance to introduce themselves to the audience gathered at Honolulu Community College.
“I solidly believe that we need someone in Congress who understands and can represent our working class people,” said city council member Ikaika Anderson.
State Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said “my public service record speaks for itself. It’s public service for 40 years and in the Legislature for 20 years.”
“I’ve been elected to two levels of government,” said city council member Joey Manahan, “and I’ve served here in the state of Hawaii and I’ve been so privileged to do that. I see government as a way to help people.”
“Hawaii is changing so much,” State Senator Will Espero said. “I’m afraid we’re becoming a state of haves and have-nots, and the cost of living is something that all of us are concerned about.”
Candidates also outlined the problems facing Hawaii. Many referred to their family history as immigrants to America.
City council member Stanley Chang said that “today, we live in a state with the highest cost of living in the country. The highest price of housing in the country, and that American dream that was once possible for immigrants to achieve is slipping further and further away.”
The candidates forum was sponsored by the Hawaii Korean and Filipino Chambers of Commerce and by the Korean American Bar Association Hawaii. Many of the questions had to do with the relations between America and those two countries, but the audience also had an interest in the challenges of day-to-day living in Hawaii.
“Gas, food, utilities, all cost too much,” said State Representative Mark Takai, “and like many of you, I am also deeply concerned about our future.”
Touching on the immigration theme again, community activist Kathryn Xian spoke of her tailor grandfather from Korea who dedicated himself making Hawaii and the U.S. a place of welcome.
“That is what our family has maintained throughout the generations,” she said, “and this is what I represent to the people of Hawaii, my commitment to all of you and the hardworking people and families of this island and this state.”
Former Republican congressman Charles Djou and several other candidates were unable to attend today’s forum.