7 of 19 Candidates for Governor Pitch their Platforms at Waimea Forum
June 10, 2022, 8:18 AM HST
Seven of the 19 gubernatorial candidates touted their visions for Hawai‘i’s top seat Thursday evening during a Waimea Community Association forum.
The candidates had to meet two requirements to be invited to the meeting: They had to have filed their paperwork by Tuesday’s filing deadline and they had to have a positive balance in their campaign donation report. The primary election is Saturday, Aug. 13.
Here’s a look at what they said, in the order they appeared on the online forum:
Democrat Vicky Cayetano, former first lady to Gov. Ben Cayetano in the late 1990s, she also served as chairperson of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i.
The entrepreneur, mother and grandmother said her top issues are affordable housing, supporting agriculture and astronomy, the Thirty Meter Telescope included. It’s imperative that the recently formed 11-member Maunakea panel tasked with oversee the land be qualified people.
“I think we need to understand how important astronomy is to the state of Hawaii and the rest of the world,” she said.
One of the first issues she would tackle would be asking for a rent increase moratorium for two to three years so renters don’t see 25-30% rent increases.
“They can’t afford that,” she said, adding to support keeping young people and the workforce from leaving Hawaii she would look at eliminating unnecessary permitting requirements and land use restrictions.
“Hawai‘i Island does need another hospital, without a doubt,” she added.
Paul Morgan is a self-employed business consultant in Kailua-Kona, former Hawai‘i Army National Guard member and Vanderbilt University football player, who is campaign on putting Hawai’i first in a number of ways.
He said to reverse the rising cost of living, he would partner other sectors, such as churches and nonprofits to develop public lands while focusing also on cutting red tape to speed up housing projects.
“I was raising by a single mother who told me I could be whatever I wanted to be,” Morgan said. “I took that to heart.
His administration would focus on working with and developing small businesses, including farming, which he said could be bettered in the state by assisting farmers with technical assistance through programs that will enable them to share best practices and methods, a program that will help them export their products as well.
A supporter of astronomy, “a tremendous science,” he called it, he said he opposes the TMT on grounds that thousands of people opposed it, and submitted testimony arguing against it.
“I want to know why the citizens are against it,” he said.
Supporting federal qualified health clinics and entrepreneurs will lessen the burden on Hawai‘i’s hospitals, he added.
Dr. Richard King, a Democrat and doctor of dental surgery from Columbia University, moved to Hawai‘i from Korea as a teenager. A resident of O‘ahu, one of his platforms is a media reform, which includes implementing a oversight media board to guide the media to become less divisive, among other things.
At the educational level, he would promote an increase mental health awareness and treatment in the schools.
An economic boost to the state will be removing or replacing the Jones Act to free up shipping to the state. He would also bring back ferry service to the islands, promote self-sustainability so the state can rely more on its own food sources, and he’d explore allowing gambling.
“I may want to bring a casino to Hawai‘i but not Waikiki,” he said. “That’s one thing I might want to do.”
He said he’d support what’s being done for invasive species, and that he would have to see if better options are out there if he were elected on how to improve the state’s emergency response strategies.
Gary Cordery, a Republican, lives in Kailua, O‘ahu, and built a small business from the ground up in Kingdom Builders. A general contractor, he said “government overreach” is a a big reason for rising costs in the islands across all sectors, and he is a proponent of scaling back regulation to free up the free market, which will lessen costs.
“People don’t realize the amount of taxes and how difficult it is to register your car,” he said. “These problems can be changed. This is the reason for the run.”
Suspending the Jones Act to lessen the burden for shipping will help all industries ship between islands, including farmers. Establishing a nonprofit and not state agencies to focus on shipping will ease the costs and constraints.
“This again, as I mentioned before, is the result of bad policies,” Cordery said. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”
Housing costs are so high because of fees, shipping and permitting costs for contractors, which can be lessened with less government regulation. Another relief for the housing market will be requiring the military to provide their own housing for soliders and their families so they don’t compete with local renters.
“Which can be negotiated,” he said.
He said it would be a priority to de-centralize the state education system so individual families have more say in their students learning.
“I will stand for the people, not bend,” he said. “I will pray hard and trust God.”
Kai Kahele, an incumbent Congressman and military member who launched his campaign on May 7 on a “grassroots” pledge, is a Democratic considered by some as one of the front runners in the race.
Hawai‘i’s gross domestic product is 2% right now, less than the general 4% cost of living increase every year, he pointed out on Thursday. Key to changing that tide is pivoting away from the way things are done and toward innovative economic ideas. One way to do that would be to invest in agriculture and the ag industry as a whole.
Kahele, of Hilo, said he’d propose 3% of the state budget, a 2.6% increase from what’s allocated now, to invest in ag development in the state.
“We’ve been talking about agriculture for decades but we haven’t invested,” he said. “We need to get the state investment in agriculture back to pre-2008 levels,” he said.
State regulation has made building homes more laborious and time consuming than it needs to be, he said. He was one of many candidates who said he would look at cutting away at the permitting process.
“Building homes is not hard, we just made it hard,” he said.
Kahele, a supporter of astronomy who counts Kona astronaut the late Ellison Onisuka as one of his childhood heroes whom he was fortunate to meet, said he would appoint to the board of education those who are products of the Hawai‘i public education system. He also supports universal pre-school.
“I feel like I have a kuleana to grow our education system,” he said.
Heidi Tsunaeyoshi is a current Honolulu City Council member who represents the island’s north shore, and her platform is bringing fiscal responsibility to the government.
A Republican, Tsunaeyoshi earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and her master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Chaminade University and became a licensed mental health counselor.
She said one way to cut costs is to cut out consultants, change orders, and cost overruns from government budget, including Honolulu’s rail project.
“First of all, we need to make these cuts so we don’t have all these taxes,” Tsunaeyoshi said. “My daughters really don’t think they can live here … so, I’m in the same boat as all of you with that.”
Another priority of hers would be to lessen regulation and work better with agencies like the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to ease the burden of them getting funding and putting it to use. DHHL received millions this legislative session but the councilwoman said what people don’t realize is those allotments come with criteria, or hurdles, that must be met, which can be difficult for them to reach, so getting the money in hand and put to use is other thing that just getting it allotted.
Easing those burdens would put Native Hawaiians in homes, she said.
She would also work with counties to focus on housing development, putting a moratorium on all other development.
“Because that’s all we should be doing right now,” she said.
As governor, she would meet with each community to see what infrastructure projects are tops on each of their priority lists.
Lynn Mariano, of O‘ahu, is a Republican and financial planning business owner who also has 38 years of emergency management experience, and retired from the U.S. Army.
He said he would boost the state’s economic picture by modifying the Jones’ Act and revising the state tax code to make it more friendly to residents. What he would do if he were governor right now is take the nearly $2 billion surplus the state experienced this year and pay it toward taxes so residents could feel relief.
Another focus of his platform would be investing in the agriculture and fishing industries.
“The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a freight train, it’s a light of hope,” he said.
Among Those Who Didn’t Attended
Not in Thursday’s field was incumbent Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
Green, a Democrat and former Kona emergency room doctor and legislator from 2004-2018, is the fundraising front-runner, according to the Hawai‘i Campaign Spending Commission as reported in a May 9 Civil Beat article.
Gov. David Ige didn’t choose a favorite candidate when asked recently by Hawaii News Now who he’d like to see replace him.
Here’s a list of every name that’s filed in state and Big Island races.
Here’s a list of the entire gubernatorial field:
- David Bourgoin
- Vicky Cayetano
- Josh Green (current lieutenant governor)
- Kai Kahele (current District 2 U.S. congressman)
- Richard Kim
- Clyde McClain
- Van Tanabe
- Duke Aiona
- Gary Cordery
- George Hawat
- Keline Kahau
- Lynn Mariano
- Paul Morgan
- Moses Paskowitz
- BJ Penn
- Heidi Tsuneyoshi
- Walter Woods