U.S. Senate Race: Who Can Save Hawaii’s Middle Class?

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa discuss how to make life more affordable in one of the most expensive places in the country. Solutions are elusive, they say, but job creation, energy efficiencies and food production top the list.

·By Nick Grube

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa has a utopian vision for Hawaii in which residents can earn more money, cut ties with the local electric utility and eat locally grown Manoa lettuce fertilized by tilapia farms in their backyards.

It’s part of the congresswoman’s belief that the most isolated state in the country can create high-paying jobs as well as be more economical for working class families so long as self-sufficiency and sustainability reign.

But when asked how life in the Aloha State can become more affordable for those in the middle class, Hanabusa shrugs.

“You know, if I could tell you that I would be president of the United States,” Hanabusa said. “It’s not a simple answer.”

People waiting for a bus in downtown Honolulu.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Sticking up for working families has been a major talking point in the Democratic primary race between Hanabusa and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz.

Both candidates have said repeatedly they intend to make conditions more livable in a state where the cost of living can be exponentially higher than other parts of the country.

Hanabusa likes to remind people of her upbringing on the Leeward Coast, where she lived behind her parents’ gas station and learned about local values.

Schatz, on the other hand, has pushed legislation to help make college more affordable, and often points to clean energy as a way to lower electric bills on the islands.

But in a state where the largest city’s median home price is $700,000 and the only way to keep all

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Nick Grube

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