Democrat Tulsi Gabbard, the U.S. Congressional Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd District, is enormously popular. In the 2014 election, she won reelection with nearly 76 percent of the vote. But she’s far from universally loved–in fact, she’s been something of a rebel this year. Long a critic of President Barack Obama’s military and foreign policy, she threw all her support this year behind Senator Bernie Sanders’ run at the Democratic presidential nomination–even going so far as to criticize the Democratic National Committee for not scheduling more debates with Sanders.
But then Shay Chan Hodges–a longtime activist in the Maui Democratic Party–decided to run against Gabbard. Suddenly, Gabbard didn’t want to debate her own primary challenger (one of her campaign aides told us that Gabbard will not give into Chan Hodges’ “demands”). This drew a strong rebuke in the pages of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:
“Chan Hodges is challenging Gabbard’s representation of the district, her commitment to Sanders’ progressive agenda, her attacks on President Barack Obama by using GOP talking points on radical Islam and her ties to conservative casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson,” stated columnist David Shapiro in the paper’s July 3 edition. “If Gabbard sees herself as future national ticket material, she should be able to stand up and answer questions in public debate–just as she demanded of Clinton.”
We haven’t yet received Gabbard’s candidate questionnaire, but we do have Chan Hodges’. Here you go:
MAUITIME: What is your top priority if elected?
SHAY CHAN HODGES: My top priority is to stand up for working families. Republicans will likely retain control of the U.S. House in this election, and Paul Ryan is expected to continue as Speaker. He will therefore control the legislative agenda. Thus, to have any hope of advancing an economy in Hawaii that supports working families, Democrats will need to take control of the narrative. We must insist that federal policies are designed in response to the stories of real families in their day-to-day struggles–not in reaction to ideological abstractions pushed by lobbyists that mask a hidden (often corporate) agenda.
This does not need to be a partisan approach. In most families–both Democrat and Republican–more than one paycheck is required to make ends meet; both parents desire time with their children; either parent may have the educational capacity to participate in the workforce at a high level; and both men and women want to contribute to their communities.
In truth, the Republican agenda is not just failing our working families in Hawaii; it is failing Democratic and Republican families in districts across the nation.
Adopting Republican talking points to pursue a counterfeit bipartisanship because the GOP is in power is a failed strategy. Real bipartisanship builds bridges that better the lives for the majority of our citizens.
If elected, I will vigorously advocate for national policies centered on our common values designed at the kitchen tables of real people in Hawaii and across the nation–not by lobbyists or corporate funded think tanks.
MT: What event in your life best prepared you for public office?
SCH: Although I am a small business owner, a grant writer, author and activist, raising a family on Maui is the “event” that has best prepared me to fight for the residents of Hawaii’s second Congressional district.
As a parent, I manage the realities of satisfying basic human needs every day– which should certainly be a requirement for anyone who represents our citizens at any level of government. As a working parent, I provide both care and financial support for my kids and family. I LIVE the day-to-day issues and navigate the practical realities that working families in our state face when it comes to education, healthcare, housing, substance abuse, keeping our families safe, and of course, the economy.
Caring for others has taught me what to prioritize. Parents and children do not have lobbyists. That is why our representatives have not acted on affordable child care, equal pay, paid family leave, support for caregivers of elders, access to higher education, or gun control. Private interests don’t make contributions to political campaigns based on what’s best for our families, our children, or our future as a country. Yet that should be the FIRST consideration of every member of the US Congress.
I don’t just understand the issues. I know how to get things done. Like most parents, I have learned how to assess the needs of my family and community, and to address those needs in the most efficient way possible, usually with very little time. Raising kids while providing for them has taught me to multi-task, work out logistics, practice true empathy, compassion, and patience, and most importantly, how to negotiate.
Negotiation has become a lost art in Congress. Yet that was the very mechanism our Founding Fathers relied upon in devising the checks and balances between the three branches. As we’ve seen all too often, government cannot work without negotiation. It’s the only way to move forward with so many competing interests, diverse values, and conflicting agendas. Negotiation does not, however, mean surrendering our values.
Like all caregivers, raising children has taught me to see the big picture, to appreciate the value of sacrifice, and to fight for what really matters.
That is the very essence of public service.
A friend of mine who is a parent advocate in DC, Valerie Young, describes care-giving this way: “It is a full body contact sport, a multi-media, interdisciplinary mamapalooza of a way to live.”
I suspect that making a difference in Congress is similar.
MT: Who should be the next President of the United States?
SCH: The Democratic nominee should be the next President of the United States.
MT: Which person who previously held the office you’re seeking do you hold up as a model? Why?
SCH: Patsy T. Mink is my model for US Representative. Patsy Mink, who was our district’s first US Representative, and the first woman of color to serve in the US Congress, was a trailblazer and a role model.
But she was much more than that. She used her position to fight for women, workers, and those who lack a voice. As one of the principal authors of Title IX, she helped end admissions and financial aid discrimination in higher education — which led to the tripling of women’s college enrollment in the last forty years.
In order to achieve this landmark legislation, Patsy Mink didn’t just help write the bill or co-sponsor and vote for it, she fought for it. And even after it passed, she kept fighting for it (when others tried to gut it), maintaining its strength and integrity.
In 2014, 12 years after her death, Patsy Mink was honored by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In the documentary film, Ahead of the Majority, Mink is quoted: “What you endure is who you are. And if you just accept and do nothing, then life goes on. But if you see it as a way for change, life doesn’t have to be so unfair. It can be better. Maybe not for me, I can’t change the past, but I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.”
MT: What (if anything) should the U.S. Congress do to reduce gun violence?
SCH: I am a very strong supporter of strict gun control laws. As someone who also appreciates the cultural, environmental, and subsistence significance of hunting in the state of Hawaii–where we have strict gun control laws–I think it’s extremely important that we differentiate between weapons used for hunting and those that are intended to hurt humans.
I therefore support at a minimum:
- Banning assault weapons;
- Banning the production of high-capacity ammunition magazines;
- Expanding background check laws, and closing background check loopholes;
- Ending the ban on gun violence research;
- Requiring safe storage and gun lock standards.
MT: What (if anything) should the nation be doing (that it isn’t already doing) to alleviate climate change?
SCH: As a nation, we should be moving billions of dollars in pension funds away from investments with a large “carbon footprint” and into investments that alleviate climate change.
Last summer I had the opportunity to meet U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez when he traveled to Hawaii to convene a roundtable on paid family leave. I was impressed with Secretary Perez’s foresight as well as his commitment to meeting the real needs of working families. So I was not surprised to learn that the U.S. Department of Labor took an action last October that could have an enormous impact on alleviating climate change — it issued Interpretive Bulletin 2015-01.
The Bulletin, which provides guidance for pension fund trustees, “acknowledges that environmental, social, and governance factors may have a direct relationship to the economic and financial value of an investment. When they do, these factors are more than just tiebreakers, but rather are proper components of the fiduciary’s analysis of the economic and financial merits of competing investment choices.”
Translated from regulatory legalese, Secretary Perez’s action means that trustees of pension funds with trillions of dollars in assets can now take climate change risks into consideration when deciding where to invest. Simply put, these trustees now have the authority to move hundreds of billions of dollars out of investments that add to climate change and into investments that fund innovation in energy and transportation. The added bonus is that with smart leadership Hawaii can be a primary destination for much of this new investment as we move toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.
MT: In Strieff v Utah, the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that police can keep evidence seized from stops made without reasonable suspicion if police find an even minor arrest warrant on the person stopped. Do you support this? Why or why not?
SCH: No I do not support the US Supreme Court’s ruling. I agree with Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissenting opinion of the ruling, in which she states:
“The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights… Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong.”
In her opinion, Sotomayor described widespread police misconduct, focusing on the Department of Justice’s Ferguson report to demonstrate that “outstanding warrants are surprisingly common,” noting that “in the town of Ferguson, Missouri, with a population of 21,000, 16,000 people had outstanding warrants against them.”
Sotomayor further stated: “This Court has given officers an array of instruments to probe and examine you. When we condone officers’ use of these devices without adequate cause, we give them reason to target pedestrians in an arbitrary manner. We also risk treating members of our communities as second-class citizens. Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more…It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny.”
MT: Do you support full legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?
SCH: I support the legalization of marijuana for three reasons:
The criminalization of the substance in conjunction with a judicial system that has resulted in the wrongful incarcerations of thousands of America’s minorities, which is accompanied by the heavy financial burden of keeping these nonviolent offenders in prison.
There is overwhelming evidence that marijuana is not a gateway drug.
There are a wide variety of medicinal and therapeutic applications for which marijuana can be used.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “Marijuana use is roughly equal among Blacks and Whites, yet Blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.” The biased execution of such laws not only hurt those brought to court, but the American taxpayer as well. In the same report the ACLU disclosed that enforcing marijuana laws costs Americans about $3.6 billion a year, and yet, marijuana use has not fallen.
According to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine: “In the sense that marijuana use typically precedes rather than follows initiation into the use of other illicit drugs, it is indeed a gateway drug. However, it does not appear to be a gateway drug to the extent that it is the cause or even that it is the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse; that is, care must be taken not to attribute cause to association.”
Scientific and medical research demonstrates that marijuana can help fight epileptic seizures, anxiety, and certain forms of cancer. The decriminalization of marijuana would provide families with easier access to additional medical options.
Photo courtesy Shay Chan Hodges