Congressional contenders invited to Kaua’i forum

Former gubernatorial candidate Ed Case, Democratic state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga – candidates in the Jan. 4 special election for the 2nd Congressional District – are scheduled to debate on Kaua’i on Dec. 20.

Case, who recently won the first special election to fill the district seat left vacant by the death of House Rep. Patsy Mink this year, Hanabusa and Matsunaga are to debate Hawaiian issues and state issues at the meeting between 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kaua’i Veterans Center.

The forum will provide Kaua’i voters, including native Hawaiians, a chance to “assess which candidate is the best candidate for the seat,” according to James Torio, executive director of the Anahola Homesteaders Council, which is sponsoring the forum.

The group wants to hear only from the three candidates, although there are others running in the upcoming election, which will determine who will serve the next two-year term.

Other major candidates include state Reps. Barbara Marumoto and Chris Halford, former state Reps. Bob McDermott and Jim Rath and former Honolulu mayor Frank Fasi. In all, 44 candidates have filed to run in the special election.

Case, Hanabusa and Matsunaga are expected to respond to questions generated by the members of the Homesteaders Council dealing with the Akaka Bill, which has proposed federal recognition for native Hawaiians.

Torio said he and others in the Hawaiian community on Kaua’i want to see “at what level do they support the Akaka bill” and “what process in the bill do they support?”

“Under the language of the bill, I would like to see and hear in detail what portion of the language they support, versus federal recognition,” Torio said.

Torio said the winner of the special election will play a key role in working with Hawaii’s congressional team members in shaping the future of native Hawaiians.

But the Kanaka maoli, the indigenous people of Hawai’i, have voiced support for independence from the United States.

Case, Hanabusa and Matsunaga also will be asked about their stands on a proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish critical habitat designations for 99,000 acres on Kaua’i and Ni’ihau to protect endangered plants and animals.

Since the announcement of the plan in January, more research has led to a reduction to about 66,000 acres for endangered plants, federal officials have said.

The federal agency is proposing the protection zones in response to a 1998 federal court order.

The protective zones would take effect when federal permits and funds are applied to them.

During the first hour of the forum, other questions will be posed to the candidates ,including those about the presence of U.S. military in Hawai’i, “monetary issues” and those related to senior citizens in the state, Torio said.

During the second hour, the candidates are anticipated to take questions from the audience.

Before the meeting is held efforts will be made to solicit questions, followed by sorting of questions before they are posed to the candidates, said Kaiapua Fyfe, who is helping to put together the forum.

Fyfe said people can send the questions to kaiokauai@aol.com or 246-8899.

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