Social Issues Center In First Televised Hawaii Congress Debate

Michael Levine/Civil Beat

Social issues like abortion and gay marriage came up early and often during the first widely televised debate in the 2nd Congressional District Democratic primary Thursday night.

The 90-minute Hawaii News Now debate also covered economic growth and regulations, the Jones Act, Native Hawaiian rights and the Akaka Bill, social security and Obamacare, the rail project and the difference between urban Honolulu and the neighbor island and rural Oahu communities in the district.

But the first topics of discussion, and the subjects of the most finger-pointing, were the social issues. Frontrunners Mufi Hannemann and Tulsi Gabbard drew criticism from one another and from rivals Esther Kiaaina and Bob Marx for their evolving or vague positions on those issues.

The first question of the evening was to Gabbard, who had been far behind in early polling but pulled a stunning turnaround this year to move into a dead heat with the better-known Hannemann. And it was about how she delineates her positions from her father, Sen. Mike Gabbard, who opposed gay rights in the Hawaii Legislature.

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