Hawaii Congressional Candidates on the Jones Act

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BY MICHAEL HANSEN – Hawaii’s major daily recently surveyed the political candidates running for federal office and predictably found that Democrats support the Jones Act and Republicans favor an exemption for Hawaii.

In July, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser surveyed all political candidates running for local, state and federal office in 2012, and published the results in their Elections Voters’ Guide on Friday, July 27, 2012.  Concurrently, the Star Advertiser and Hawaii News Now (HNN) (https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/ ) commissioned Ward Research Inc. (https://www.wardresearch.com/ ) to poll the federal races.  The poll was conducted between July 12 and 21, 2012 and the results published in the Star-Advertiser on July 26th and 30th.  (https://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20120726_Hirono_retains_lead_over_case.html  andhttps://www.staradvertiser.com/newspremium/20120730__Hannemann_shows__a_healthy_margin__over_his_opponent.html )


The Star-Advertiser asked all 24 candidates running for three federal offices 6 questions including, “Should Hawaii be exempt from the Jones Act, the federal law that protects the domestic shipping industry from foreign competition?”  Typically the Democrat candidates voiced complete support for the Jones Act while generally the Republican candidates supported an exemption of some kind for Hawaii (see selected results and link below).  There are of course exceptions, most notably former congressman and Democrat Ed Case who has supported Jones Act reform throughout his political career.  (https://www.hawaiifreepress.com/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/7189/Hawaii-Dems-and-Mr-Jones.aspx )

The Hawaii congressional delegation consists of the customary two U.S. senators and two representatives.  There are two open races this year with no incumbent: one senate and one house seat.  Although the other house seat is occupied by an incumbent running for reelection, the race is competitive.


The open U.S. Senate race will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of three term U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka (D) (age 87 years).  Of the 11 candidates attempting to succeed Senator Akaka, three are generally considered to be major candidates.  Two will meet in the Democratic Party primary – three term Congresswoman Maize Hirono (age 64 years) (https://www.mazieforhawaii.com/ ) and former two term Congressman Ed Case (age 59 years) (https://www.edcase.com/ ).  The winner of the Democratic Party primary will in all likelihood meet the former two-term Republican Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle (age 59 years) (https://www.lingle2012.com/) in the general election.

Cong Hirono affirmed her unconditional support for the Jones Act, former Cong Case supports an exemption from the Jones Act that would create more competition in the Hawaii trade while maintaining union, tax, environmental and other protections, and Gov Lingle called for a  Government Accountability Office (GAO) study along the lines of the current GAO study of the Puerto Rico trade before deciding what if any changes should be made to the Jones Act. (See below for more on Lingle’s position and the GAO Puerto Rico Jones Act study.)

Ward Research polled the Democratic primary for Senate race surveying 606 very likely voters statewide with a margin of error of ± 4%.  In  response to the question of who would you vote for today in the Democratic Party primary, voters said: Hirono 55% vs. Case 37% with 8% undecided (excluding those voting in the Republican primary).  Ward also polled 756 likely voters statewide with a margin of error of ± 3.6% regarding the possible general election matchups with former Gov Lingle; the pollsters found: Hirono 58% vs. Lingle 39% with 4% undecided.   And, Case 56% vs. Lingle 38% with 6% undecided.

House CD-1

Although there are 5 candidates in the race for the U.S. House for Hawaii Congressional District 1 (CD-1) representing urban Honolulu, it will boil down to a rematch between the incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (age 61 years) (https://www.hanabusaforhawaii.com/ ) and former Republican congressman Charles Djou (age 41 years) (https://www.djou.com/ ).  These two met in the last general election in 2010 when Cong. Hanabusa defeated the incumbent Cong. Djiou 53.2% to 46.8%.  Cong. Djou had won a special election for CD-1 in May 2010 and served for seven months.

Democrat Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, a long time labor attorney, said she fully supports the Jones Act and emphasizes that the law is necessary to ensure the continuation of Hawaii’s interstate ocean transportation and that it doesn’t really add to consumer costs in Hawaii.   Cong Hanabusa cites as her authority, the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, which was renamed the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) in February 2011  (https://www.americanmaritimepartnership.com/ ).  Several major U.S. corporations in a series of five lawsuits brought in April 2012 against the four Jones Act common carriers operating in the Puerto Rico trade for price collusion referred in their complaints to AMP as a “co-conspirator industry trade association.”  AMP has an obvious conflict of interest in regards to their defense of the Jones Act and their representations should be taken with a grain of salt.

Congressman Djou said that he favors exempting Hawaii from the Jones Act, but doesn’t mention any details of his position.

The Ward Research poll of 327 likely voters in CD-1 with margin of error of ± 5.3% asked who they would cast their vote for if the general election were held today? The response was: Hanabusa 50%, Djou 41%, others 4% and undecided 4%.

House CD-2

There is a very competitive Democratic Primary for the open House seat for Hawaii Congressional District 2 (CD-2) representing rural Oahu and the Neighbor Islands between former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (age 58 years) (https://mufihannemann.com/ ) and current Honolulu City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard (age 31 years) (https://votetulsi.com/ ).  The winner of the Democratic Party primary will likely meet political neophyte and retired U.S. Naval officer Republican Matthew DiGeronimo (age 38 years) (https://www.md4congress.com/ ).

Both Mayor Hannemann and Councilwoman Gabbard oppose any changes to the Jones Act on the basis that the law is necessary to ensure the continuity of Hawaii’s shipping services and for national defense.  Digeronimo supports reform of the Jones Act that will lead to more competition and U.S. shipboard jobs.

The Ward Research poll of 343 very likely Democratic Party primary voters in CD-2 with a margin of error of ± 5.3% asked who they would vote for if the primary election were conducted today with the results: Hannemann 43%, Gabbard 33%, Others 15% and undecided 9%.   They did not poll the possible general election matchups.


The responses of the those candidates in favor of changing the Jones Act fall within the parameters of the Hawaii Shippers Council (HSC)’s proposal for an exemption from the U.S. build requirement of the Jones Act in the coastwise noncontiguous domestic trades for large oceangoing ships where the issue of fleet replacement is most acute.  This reform will not negatively impact any maritime employment in Hawaii, and may well increase it.  (See the attached proposal outline.)

It is notable that this is the first regular Hawaii election in which at least one major candidate running in each of the federal offices has clearly stated a position favorable to Jones Act reform and we look forward to great results in the primary and general elections.

There has been criticism of the Ward Research Inc. polling techniques in their July poll for the Star-Advertiser and HNN that Democratic voters were over sampled distorting the results by perhaps as much as 20%, which would make a significant difference in their open Senate and CD-1 general election results.  (https://www.hawaiifreepress.com/ArticlesMain/tabid/56/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/7309/StarAdv-Poll-Debunked-20-Extra-Democrats.aspx )

The Hawaii State primary election is an open primary and will be held on August 11th, early voting began on July 30th.


Michael Hansen is the President of the Hawaii Shippers Council. The Hawaii Shippers Council (HSC) is a business league organization incorporated in 1997 to represent cargo interests – known as “shippers” – who tender goods for shipment in the Hawaii trade.