2022 Primary Elections: Filipino Americans Running For Office

by Jim Bea Sampaga

Leaders in the Filipino community from the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X – contemporaries of former Gov. Ben Cayetano and those old enough to witness his historical victory – have been waiting for an election year to be as captivating as it were in the 1990s when the idea of Filipino empowerment was joined at the hip to local politics.

Since then and through the 2000s, there hasn’t been an election sufficiently invigorating for Hawaii’s Filipino community to rally behind with such intensity and unity for a Filipino-American candidate. Why?

In some ways, Filipino-Americans today, particularly millennials, have not experienced the level of discrimination in the past. Back then, older Filipinos had something to really fight for and to say with our votes that “we are here, and it’s our time!” Another reason is there hasn’t been a Filipino-American running for a major political office in the 2000s who managed to appeal to the Filipino constituency as Cayetano did — in part not necessarily due to a lack of ability or charisma, but that the Filipino constituency of most recent is far more diverse.

Based on who’s running among Filipino candidates, election 2022 signals a new dawn, a new era. The old political guard of FilAm politicians of the 1990s, what’s left of them, you can count with one hand. There are new faces. All the Filipino-Americans running for the highest seats (Congress and Lt. Gov) in this election represent a new generation.

Two Filipino Americans are running for U.S. Congressional seats. Non-profit public interest attorney Sergio Alcubilla is running for U.S. Congressional District 1. While District 50 Representative Patrick Pihana Branco is running for U.S. Congressional District 2. If either one of them is elected, it will be the first time a Filipino is elected to a Congressional seat from Hawaii. There is a current member of Congress of Filipino ancestry and another in the past from other states.

Another potential first should she win in her race for Hawaii Lieutenant Governor is Chamber of Commerce Hawaii CEO and President Sherry-McNamara, who is of Filipino ancestry.

The State Senate is also an area to watch for. Currently, six out of 25 State senators are of Filipino ancestry while there are eight Filipinos out of the 51 State House representatives. For this election, there are 10 State Senate and 15 State House candidates with Filipino ancestry.

This election, Filipino American incumbents are running for their current seats while some candidates are running up to the State Senate positions. Several Filipino American candidates are also going head-to-head in the same public office position.

Long-time politician Romy Cachola is running for his old seat in House District 30 which represents Kalihi and its neighboring towns. Cachola held the position since 2012 but lost his seat to newcomer Sonny Ganaden, who’s an attorney and lecturer, in the 2020 Primary Elections. This year, Ganaden is once again running for the District 30 seat against Cachola.

Waipahu-native Henry J.C. Aquino has served the State House for the last 14 years representing Districts 35 and 38 which cover different portions of Waipahu. This election, he’s running as a senator to represent Senate District 19 which covers the majority of Waipahu and Pearl City. Aquino’s move to the State Senate is most likely because of redistricting this 2022 Primary Elections. Aquino and fellow Filipino Roger Clemente are the only candidates running for Senate District 19. If one of them wins, it will add another Filipino to the Senate.

For the Senate District 16 seat, Councilmember Brandon Elefante is challenging incumbent Bennette Misalucha. Elefante has held the seat in Honolulu City Council District 8 since 2014 and is an active community member. Meanwhile, Misalucha, who is a community leader and former executive, was appointed by Governor David Ige to fill the Senate District 16 seat after Sen. Breen Harimoto’s passing.

An interesting newcomer in this election’s candidacy is Sen. Donna Mercado Kim’s son, Micah Pookela Kim Aiu. Currently a practicing attorney and an in-house counsel for a firm, Aiu is running for State House District 32 which represents Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake and Aliamanu. Kim is also on the ballots this election as she runs for her current seat at the Senate District 14.

In the Honolulu City Council race, former District 9 councilmember Ron Menor is running for District 8. Fellow Filipino American and current District 26 representative Val Aquino Okimoto is also running for the City Council District 8 seat. Although the City Council race is non-partisan, Menor is a member of the Democratic party while Okimoto is Republican.

To help the Filipino community learn more about the upcoming elections, Hawaii Filipino Chronicle reached out to Filipino American candidates running for public office to share their background and platforms.

Editor’s note: Other Fil-Am candidates who were not included in this cover story did not respond as of our press time.


Sergio Alcubilla
RUNNING FOR: U.S. Congressional  District 1

Background: I am a public-interest attorney, non-profit community leader, and proud Filipino-American immigrant. Born in the Philippines, I immigrated to the U.S. at seven years old after my military officer father was assassinated by a communist hit squad in 1986. My mother was pregnant with my youngest brother at the time and was working as a nurse in the U.S. As a single mother, she worked hard to raise six children.

These lived and personal experiences have guided my career in public service. I previously served as an attorney and the Director of External Relations at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, a non-profit, public interest law firm where I focused on improving access to justice for the most vulnerable in our community. I am currently on the executive board of the Hawaii Workers Center, a non-profit organization that advocates for the rights of low-wage workers. I’ve served on various committees of the Hawaii Access to Justice Commission and as a board director for the Hawaii Filipino Lawyers Association and the Filipino Young Leaders Program. I graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and economics, obtained a master’s degree in religious education from the Unification Theological Seminary, and completed my law degree at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii. My wife Hiromi and I have two young children, Aina and Sergio IV who both attend public school. I enjoy playing league basketball in the community.

Platform: It’s time we put the needs of working families and everyday people first. Our democracy and government do not just belong to the rich and powerful but to hard-working people like you and me. Representation matters. It’s time we have a seat at the table. I am grateful for the endorsement and support of Unite Here Local 5, the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA), Hawaii State AFL-CIO, ILWU Local 142, ILWU International, Pono Hawaii Initiative, and the Hawaii Ports Maritime Council who join me in standing up for the people and standing up for what’s right.

Patrick Pihana Branco

RUNNING FOR: U.S. Congressional District 2

I am the current State Representative for Hawai’i House District 50 (Kailua and Kāne‘ohe Bay). I was born and raised in Kailua and spent my summers growing up working on my great-grandfather’s farm on Hawaiʻi island. I graduated from the Kamehameha Schools and received a full scholarship to Hawaiʻi Pacific University, where I served as Student Body President.

After graduating, I earned a Congressman Charles B. Rangel Fellowship to fully fund my Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. Drawn to public service, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service as a Diplomat in 2012. Around the world, I dedicated myself to promoting the values I grew up with in Hawaiʻi: equality, freedom of speech, and religious freedom. I served tours in some of the world’s most unstable areas, such as Colombia, Pakistan, Venezuela, the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Secretary of State’s Operations Center. In the State Legislature, I am proud to have been the author of the bill which banned the possession of ghost guns in Hawaiʻi and to have secured the funding for the Green Job Youth Corps, which brought job opportunities for our youth and strengthened Hawaiʻi’s climate resiliency.

Platform: If elected, I’m proud to say that I will be the only member of Hawaiʻi’s federal delegation to have Filipino ancestry. I’m running for Congress to bring jobs and opportunities to Hawaiʻi. Diversification of our economy is an issue of social and economic security. I’m committed to securing the federal support needed for this diversification. In Congress, I will work to bolster Hawaiʻi’s agricultural industry and secure the funding needed to help make Hawaiʻi a leader in renewable energy and cyber security. These industries will create thousands of jobs and help retain more of our local talent—ensuring our families have the opportunities here at home to thrive.


Lynn Barry Mariano
RUNNING FOR: Governor of Hawaii

Born and raised in Kalihi-Palama, I’m married to my wife Jade for 44 years. After attending Farrington High School in 1974, I graduated from Chaminade University and was commissioned as 2nd LT in the US Army from UH-ROTC in 1978, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in 1985. I’m a combat veteran who successfully commanded two companies and served as an acting Battalion Commander during Desert Storm earning multiple awards during my time in service.

I retired from Federal Civil Service with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, was a small business owner, and currently work as a consultant on Continuity of Operations, Continuity of Government, and Command & Control for the Department of Defense. Throughout my career in the military and federal government, I was consistently chosen to solve complex problems because of my proactive leadership and team-building skills. My strength lies in the ability to recognize issues, leverage appropriate resources and processes to address them, pull together subject matter experts and foster a collaborative team environment where the team works toward a common goal. I have 40 years of leadership experience working on complex issues at the Federal, State, and local level. I served on the 1st Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board in 1976, was appointed the Kalihi-Palama Sub-area Health Commissioner under Governor Ariyoshi in 1977 and recently served on the Ala Moana-Kaka’ako Neighborhood Board from 2020-2021. I currently serve on several military organizations: VFW, Special Forces Association, and other non-profits.

Platform: Make Hawai’i Affordable for all: Revise our State tax system by eliminating or reducing GE taxes on food, medicine, tax credits for small businesses, etc. Modify the Jones Act: Make Hawai’i self-sustaining by investing in local small businesses, farming, agricultural, fishing, and emerging industries. Diversify intra-island transportation with the Super Ferry; Eliminate wasteful spending; Identify and halt corruption; Improve our public school system and aging infrastructure; Develop dignified long-term solutions for the homeless situation. In addition to improving Hawai’i’s economy, I will focus on Hawai’i’s physical safety through homeland defense and national security measures.


Sherry Menor-McNamara
RUNNING FOR: Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii

My roots stem from Calayab, Philippines, where my grandparents Angelo and Paulina Menor immigrated to Hawaii from. I vividly remember spending my summers as a little girl working on their farm in Pahoa where they taught me the values of respect, hard work, and community. My father, Barney Menor, who served as State Representative and Managing Director of Hawaii County, taught me the value of public service.

He also taught me the importance of giving back and supporting our Filipino community. He served as a founding member and President of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce Hawaii where he mentored many future Filipino community leaders and helped countless Filipino businesses across Hawaii grow and succeed. I was raised in Hilo and am a proud product of our public school system and a graduate of Waiakea High School. I received my bachelor’s degree from University of California-Los Angeles before coming home to earn my MBA and law degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Thanks to the values with which my grandparents and parents raised me, I became the youngest and first female President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii in its 171-year history. I have also been honored to have served on the Board of the Hawaii FilCom Center and was recognized with the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s Business Executive of the Year Award.

Platform: We need to put Hawaii on a new path forward by jumpstarting our economy, lowering the costs of living, doing business here in the islands, and making sure our young people have the best opportunities for success. I’ve spent my career bringing people together, creating opportunities for local businesses, finding solutions, and solving problems. Representation matters, so I humbly ask for your vote to ensure that the voices and concerns of our Filipino community are always heard at the highest levels of government as I become the first Filipina elected Lt. Governor in the history of the United States.


Henry J.C. Aquino

RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 19 (Pearl City, Waipahu, Honouliuli)

My parents first arrived in Hawaii in 1970 from Santa, Ilocos Sur, Philippines to start a new life. Both worked extremely hard to provide for my sisters and I and their experiences helped shape my appreciation for our community and where I later developed a desire to help others.

After graduating from Waipahu High School in 1995, I furthered my education and earned degrees from Honolulu Community College, University of Hawaii-West Oahu and Hawaii Pacific University. For the last 14 years, I have represented the 35th and 38th House districts in the Hawaii State House of Representatives and currently serve as Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and co-convener of the Legislative Filipino Caucus which advocated for needed resources for Filipinos and other underrepresented groups in areas of language access to state services and immigrant legal services. In addition to my legislative duties, I work for the Waipahu Community Association which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to strengthen the community’s vitality through economic development projects, social and cultural programs and activities. Outside of my legislative and non-profit work, I devote time to various organizations including the Waipahu Community Foundation, Leeward Oahu Lions Club, Knights of Rizal-Aloha Chapter, AGAPE Ministry and the Hawaii Chinese Kenpo School of Self Defense.

Platform: Our district is confronted with pressing issues such as homelessness, traffic congestion and public safety concerns. To help address these concerns, we were able to fund needed infrastructure projects that will strengthen our economy further while benefiting our area residents and developed comprehensive plans to build affordable housing and address homelessness. We need to continue to work on these issues along with bolstering our public education system. As we pivot towards the future, helping to shepherd our communities of Waipahu, Pearl City, West Loch Estates, Honouliuli and Hoopili through these times is a challenge I am looking forward to tackling.

Roger Clemente
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 19 (Pearl City, Waipahu, Honouliuli)

I currently work for the State. As a former hotel manager and educator, I received my Bachelor’s from Hawaii Pacific University and was admitted to the graduate program and transferred to CCU. I attend Kalihi-Kai Elementary, Kalakaua Intermediate and Farrington High School.

Platform: I’d like to offer and be part of the solutions. I want to solve community concerns and be part of the solution with non-political agendas. The community problems we faced from 12 years ago still persists today and has only gotten worse. My campaign is self-funded and free of influence from big donors. I support religious freedom and I am pro-life. Change in our district leadership needs to change and we need better representation.

Donovan Dela Cruz

RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 17 (Mililani, Waipio Acres, Wahiawa, Whitmore Village)

I’m the state senator for District 22, which covers much of Central Oahu. I was born and raised in my hometown of Wahiawa and am a proud Leilehua Mule. I am proud to have served our district’s constituents with integrity for over 12 years. I first pursued public office in 2003 when I was elected to the Honolulu City Council and served as the youngest Chair in the Council’s history.

I currently serve as Chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee (WAM), Vice Chair of the Government Operations Committee, and a Member of the Education Committee. Through my committee service, I have built a wide range of experience across many policy areas, built relationships with public and private stakeholders, and written and passed legislation. As WAM Chair, I have spearheaded annual efforts to draft and approve the State’s budget and ensure the effective, responsible, and fair allocation of taxpayer funds. Drawing upon my experience, strong working relationships, and community knowledge, I have been able to secure millions of dollars in funds for projects, programs, and services in our district that constituents needed most. I’ve fought for teacher raises, trauma care services for keiki, repairs to classrooms and athletic facilities, increased funding for internships, apprenticeships, and High School to Community College pathway programs that allow for early college credits and industry certifications in IT, Healthcare, Human Services, Agriculture and Public Service.

Platform: I am devoted to a responsive, modern, and efficient state government that works tirelessly to listen to the needs of the people of our State and develop solutions to address their concerns. I remain committed to tackling the issues my constituents care about: Quality education for our keiki, Workforce development and economic diversification and Hawaii’s environment and local agricultural industry. Our state needs strong, honest, and effective leadership to take us into the next decade and beyond. My experience, legislative accomplishments, and strong working relationships uniquely qualify me for this role, and I humbly ask for your vote.

Brandon Elefante

RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 16 (Halawa Heights, Aiea, Waimalu, Kalauao, Waiau, Pacific Palisades, Pearl City)

I’m running as a Democrat for Hawaii State Senate District 16, which encompasses ʻAiea, Pearl City, and Hālawa. For the past seven years, I have actively served the people of ‘Aiea, Pearl City, and Waipahū on the Honolulu City Council where I worked tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for our residents, strengthen and improve community ties, and foster community resiliency.

As a current member of the Honolulu City Council, I serve as Chair of the Committee on Zoning and Planning and Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transportation, Sustainability, and Health. I also serve as a member of the Board of Directors on the National League of Cities (NLC), Chair of the Large Cities Council for the NLC, and a member of the Oahu Metropolitan Planning Organization and former chair. I’m currently active as a member of Paradise Hawaii Toastmasters, Pearl City Lions Club, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church. I’m a former member of the ‘Aiea Neighborhood Board, ‘Aiea High School Alumni Association, and various nonprofit organizations including the JCI-Hawai‘i-Filipino Jaycees, and the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Platform: I will focus on: Economic Growth and Resiliency, More Housing, Investing in our Schools, Public Health and Infrastructure and Kupuna Services. Visit www.BrandonElefante.com to learn more.

Lorraine Rodero Inouye
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 1 – Hilo (Pepeekeo, Papaikou, Hilo, Keaukaha, Kaumana)

I was born and raised in a sugar plantation of Wainaku, a few miles north of Hilo. My father, Santiago Rodero, came from Piddig, Ilocos Norte, on the third ship for work in Hawaii. I grew up with a family of 8 and was blessed with the upbringing in a community with neighbors of many races. I continue to be guided by my parents’ mantra, to “Work hard, be honest, and help one another.”

My family didn’t ask for much and appreciated the supportive community and wholesome environment. I learned a genuine love for the land and its people. I graduated from Hilo High School, and received certifications in management and supervision in the hotel industry, Dale Carnegie courses, the Hawai’i Employers Council, and the University of Idaho – Legislative Energy Horizon Institute. I worked in the hotel industry in Hilo for 20 years, from desk clerk to office manager, assistant manager then became a general manager. I served on Hawai’i County’s planning commission, and the Hawai’i State Plan Policy Council, before being elected to the Hawai’i County Council, then Mayor, and finally, the State Senate. I presently serve as the Senate’s Majority Whip and chair of the Committee of Water and Land, vice-chair of the Transportation Committee and a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. I am also an active member of National Council of State Legislators, Council of State Government, National Hispanic Council of State Legislators, and National Association of Latino Organization.

Platform: My focus is steadfast. I want to: (1) Improve schools, hospitals and parks, (2) Make transportation infrastructure safe and accessible, (3) Improve our agricultural water infrastructure, (4) Address current and future effects of climate change, (5) Make Hawai’i more affordable for our residents, (6) Expand caregiver programs for older and disabled persons, and (7) Preserve our unique and healthy island lifestyle. I am known to be fair and honest. My willingness to work hard, communicate openly and respect all points of view. I am grateful to serve in the Senate, proud of my heritage, embrace my past, and seek to improve our island’s and state’s future.

Gil S. Coloma Keith-Agaran
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 5 (Mokeehia Island, Waiehu, Paukukalo, Kahului, Puunene, Waikapu, Wailuku Heights, Wailuku)

I remain committed to public service and grateful for my community’s support. Maui needs strong and experienced voices representing our residents. Steady leadership over the next four years will be crucial to ensure all Maui residents benefit from our economic recovery.

We’ve taken some steps already—investing in education and training opportunities at UH Maui College for doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers, and various trades— and poured more money into building homes, but more needs to be done. I grew up in Paia and Kahului and graduated from Maui High School. After college at Yale University and law school at University of California-Berkeley, I returned home because Maui is where I wanted to live, play and raise a family. Gov. Ben Cayetano allowed me to serve at the Departments of Land and Natural Resources, Labor and Industrial Relations, and Commerce and Consumer Affairs. Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa named me as Director of Public Works and Environmental Management. In 2009, Gov. Linda Lingle appointed me to the State House and my community re-elected me twice. In 2012, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed me to the State Senate and my community has re-elected me three times. I continued to practice law in Wailuku when the legislature is not in session while remaining active in my Central Maui community.

Platform: We must focus on making Hawaii a great place to live, work, play and raise families by addressing housing, child care, wages, and taxes, issues making life challenging for local residents even in good times. The number of working families living on the financial edge remains way too high. We need to build on what we’ve done in recent sessions: expanding child care/preschool (supporting existing providers and investing $200Million for more classrooms); ensuring our billion-dollar housing investment directly benefits local families and not out-of-state developers; and implementing higher minimum wages and fairer tax laws to help working families.

Donna Mercado Kim
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 14 (Kalihi, Fort Shafter, Moanalua)

I grew up in a small two-bedroom apartment in Kalihi-Palama with no running hot water. My father worked as a carpenter and my mother worked nights as a waitress to support me and my four siblings. My Filipino roots come from my maternal grandfather, Juan Mercado from Batangas. He passed when my mom was an infant and we were raised by my step Grandfather Bartolome Atienza.

My mother Lily Mercado was the Miss Hawaii Filipina 1947. I’m a strong experienced voice who understands local and state government as I have served the people of Hawai‘i for 40 years at every level of local government – from Honolulu City Council, Hawai‘i State House of Representatives, and currently on Hawai‘i’s State Senate. A Cum Laude graduate of Washington State University, I completed my freshman and sophomore years at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. I am a proud graduate of Farrington High School. I consistently hold government officials accountable, asks tough questions, and work with others to get things done. In my tenure in Hawai‘i State Government, I served as the 13th President of the Hawai‘i State Senate, Chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, Tourism and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, and Accountability Committee. Currently, I am the Chair of the Committee on Higher Education and Vice-Chair of Education. My heart has always been in my community, especially with our children and their education. I hold a deep commitment to doing right by the people who elected me.

Platform: My legislative and public policy goals are to (1) Represent my constituents and protect our future by standing up to special interests that seek private gain over the greater good, (2) Keep our public school teachers and students safe, (3) Expand inventory of affordable housing for working families, (4) Preserve and protect our water sources, (5) Hold the University of Hawaii administration accountable to keep tuition affordable, (6) Safeguard our kupuna, (7) Encourage business growth and job creation, (8) Pursue redevelopment of Kalihi by improving infrastructure investments and stimulating economic growth, and (8) Continue to champion government transparency, accountability, and innovative problem-solving.

Bennette E. Misalucha
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 16 (Halawa Heights, Aiea, Waimalu, Kalauao, Waiau, Pacific Palisades, Pearl City)

Currently serving as State Senator representing District 16, I was appointed by Gov. Ige in July 2020 to replace Sen. Breene Harimoto who passed away. I ran for this seat in a special election in November 2020 and won with the support of 14 union endorsements. I’m currently the Vice-Chair of the Committee on Energy, Economic Development and Tourism, and; as a member on Ways and Means Committee, Human Services Committee, and the Committee on Water and Land.

I’m also the co-convenor of the Joint Legislative Filipino Caucus and a member of the Women’s Legislative Caucus. I’m a proud graduate of University of Hawaii School of Communications, BIA Graduate School of Retail Banking at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and attended the University of Washington Pacific Coast Banking School. Before entering public service, I held key executive positions in banking, marketing, public policy and community outreach sectors. I spent 16 years in banking and was Senior Vice President and Senior Manager at Central Pacific Bank. Early in my career, I was a TV reporter and news producer in Hawaii and the Philippines. For the past 30 years, I have been deeply involved in community and nonprofit work in Hawaii. I’m the founding President of Women in Transportation Hawaii Chapter and sit on the Board of Regents at Chaminade University. Amongst the many awards, I have been humbled to receive is the 2021 “Banaag Presidential Award,” the highest honor given by the Philippine government to Filipinos and organizations based overseas.

Platform: It’s time for communities to work together on what is practical and promising in non-tourism sectors including small- and large-scale agriculture, renewable energy/high tech, biomedicine, astronomy and ocean sciences, and film production/creative arts. Moreover, education must be a priority in every state budget. We must recruit and retain experienced teachers, reduce class size, and provide physical facilities that are conducive to learning. And when it comes to housing, we need to ensure that all families have access to shelter and to address inequity by expanding the housing inventory of affordable homes and rentals.

Joy San Buenaventura
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 2 (Keaau, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Ainaloa, Kapoho, Pahoa, Pohoiki, Leilani Estates, Opihikao, Kalapana, Volcano, Mountain View, Kurtistown)

I have been a practicing attorney for over 30 years representing working-class people doing general practice work, including appeals. I have been a state representative for the Puna district of the Island of Hawaii from 2014 to 2020 with the last two years as Majority Whip and Chair of Human Services and Homelessness and Vice-chair of Judiciary.

I have been a State senator since 2020 serving as Senate Chair of Human Services where I pushed for policy in helping the working people which recently included expansion of Medicaid coverage for Dental and Post-partum, and provided incentives for TANF families by providing a temporary stipend when they enter a first-to-work program.

Platform: Continue to help the working people by increasing access not only to medical care but also to psychiatric/behavioral healthcare.  Help those who have bouts of homelessness or who are developmentally disabled get jobs by not removing benefits immediately but allowing for a transition, especially for Medicaid health benefits.

Matthew Keikilani Tinay
RUNNING FOR: State Senate, District 13 (Pacific Heights, Chinatown, Iwilei)

I was born and raised in Hawaii. During my early years, my family lived and worked in Waipahu plantation. We later moved to Waianae, Ewa Beach and finally, town. I graduated from Roosevelt High School. I’m currently a Criminal Investigator. Before that, I spent 26 years in law enforcements, seven years as a OCCC Correctional Officer and four years as a Hawaii Deputy Sheriff.

Platform: Combat crime and increase safety in our communities by expanding cooperation with neighborhood security watches and police. Create more open spaces for Hawaii families. Protect Hawaii’s natural land and water resources. Make Hawaii’s residents first, always.


Micah Pookela Kim Aiu

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 32 (Moanalua Valley, Salt Lake, Aliamanu)

I have called Moanalua home all my life. I graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 2007 and returned home after college and working on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., to get my law degree from the University of Hawaii in 2016. My mom, State Senator Donna Mercado Kim, has worked for the last 40 years to be a strong voice for this community, ensuring Hawaii is a better place for me, where we all want to raise our families.

The time is now for my generation to get involved, and learn from our existing leaders. As a practicing attorney for the last six years and working as the in-house counsel for Nan, Inc., I hope to work build a path towards the future.

Platform: Should I be elected, my priority would be to learn as much as possible about the many priorities of our community, how to balance these needs against our tax base and establish open relationships with a variety of constituencies. Rather than rush to introduce legislation expressing my priorities, it is more important to keep an open mind to the hundreds upon hundreds of bills under consideration, not to mention a massive state biennium budget, and the legislative goals of business, nonprofits, and other groups working for the betterment of Hawaii.

Della Au Belatti

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 26 (Makiki, Punchbowl)

I am a 30-year resident of the Makiki-Tantalus community raising two daughters with my husband who has worked as a nurse with Queen’s Medical Center for nearly two decades. Our daughters attend our local public schools and keep us busy as a family. In addition to my work as a legislator, I am an attorney and former high school social studies teacher.

I was privileged to begin my legal career as a law clerk for Judge Dexter Del Rosario (2003-2004) and Justice Simeon R. Acoba (2004-2005). In addition to my work as a legislator, I currently work as an attorney with the Law Office of Eric A. Seitz, focusing on civil rights cases and litigation. As a legislator, I am dedicated to improving my community and the State, and I am willing to work hard to tackle the tough challenges of our times.

Platform: The high cost of living persists as the top issue leaders need to address. We need to tackle cost drivers including affordable housing and early child care. I am committed to ensuring that the historic investments made into affordable housing actually deliver affordable housing for local residents. I am also committed to making sure we have pathways to good, high-paying jobs so that our keiki can stay here for post-high school education or return back to Hawaii to living-wage jobs in sectors such as health care, digital technology or cyber-security, the creative sector, or the construction and military industries.

Romy M. Cachola

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 30 (Kalihi, Kalihi Kai, Keehi Lagoon, Hickam Air Force Base, Hickam Village)

I was born in the Philippines and received a Bachelor of Laws (Juris Doctor) degree from Manuel L. Quezon University-Philippines. My wife and I came to Hawaii as first-generation immigrants. A doctor, my wife Linda’s first job was as a babysitter and I, a lawyer in the Philippines, started as a messenger.

This is what we want to impart to everyone especially our fellow immigrants: (1) Be proud of who you are, (2) Always do your best and don’t give up, (3) During hard times, do not forget to pray to ease your mind, and (4) When you make it through life, don’t forget to give back to the community. Following all these guidelines, my wife became a licensed medical doctor in Hawaii. As a messenger, I volunteered my services to work on Saturdays. I was a three-time recipient of the “Outstanding Student Award” when my company sent me for training at the American Savings & Loans Institute. Eventually, I was promoted from messenger to branch manager, and the rest as they say is history. I have dealt with many challenges and concerns that have affected our lives. I fought for them, I worked for their resolutions so that we can live in a district that is sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the residents. With a combination of skill, sensitivity, and experience in the importance of community interests, I have always advocated for fairness and solutions.

Platform: I’ll work to ratify the OCCC Bill, which I introduced and passed in the Legislature and is now shelved. I decided to run again to work on matters beneficial to District 30 like this stalled relocation of OCCC prison to Halawa. The move will free up 16 acres of valuable land for development as a major center of economic activity. New construction of commercial, residential, and affordable housing will breathe life into Kalihi and will function as a magnet for future growth and enhance the image of Kalihi. I will support the planning, procurement, and eventual delivery of the new OCCC.

Jamaica “Mai” Cullen

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 39 (Royal Kunia, Waipahu, Honouliuli, Lower Village)

I’m a Filipino American raised in Ewa Beach. To provide my four brothers, two sisters, and I with the best opportunities, my parents moved our family from Pampanga, Philippines in the early 90s. As a large immigrant family, we faced many struggles but despite that, my parents worked multiple service jobs to provide for us.

At a very young age, I learned what it means to work hard and persevere through life’s many adversities. I am a proud alumna of James Campbell High School, Ilima Intermediate, and Ewa Elementary. I continued my education at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and Educational Studies, then worked full-time at St. Joseph School in Waipahu for five years as a first-grade teacher while simultaneously obtaining my Master’s Degree in Education in Instructional Leadership from Chaminade University. While working at St. Joseph School, I met my husband, Sy Cullen and got married in 2019. We are currently expecting the birth of our first child, and we are eager to raise our family in the same community that we both grew up in and are proud to call home.

Platform: I will work to keep more money in your pockets by cutting taxes, fighting for tax relief and increasing local and living wage jobs. Community safety is paramount especially as a female who will soon have a baby and is caring for an aging parent, I am committed to cracking down on community concerns and increasing resources to services that promote health, safety and well-being. I want to continue inspiring young minds and supporting future generations by increasing access to quality learning environments and ensuring that the curriculum is student-centered and reflective of the diversity in our community.

Ernesto “Sonny” Ganaden

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 30 (Kalihi, Kalihi Kai, Keehi Lagoon, Hickam Air Force Base, Hickam Village)

Background: I proudly represent a working-class community in which thousands of Filipinos call home. In my first term, I drafted and advocated for legislation that defends our human right to clean water during the Red Hill water crisis; assisted hundreds of neighbors through Covid-related issues; secured funding for long-overdue road, school, and transportation needs; fought for the best practices in ending homelessness and disparity in our criminal justice system; and voted for measures that support working people across the state including raising the minimum wage, making the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and refundable, and establishing fair taxes for visitors.

In the future, I hope to continue to fight for the district at the state level, stabilize the rental and housing market for young families, support worker-ownership of the tourism industry to keep wealth here, defend our fragile island environment, and advance equal opportunity through education and the arts. When not at the capitol, I continue to practice law, write, and volunteer with my former job at Kokua Kalihi Valley Healthcare Center and other organizations. In my free time, I like cooking and surfing.

Platform: The district and the state deserve legislators that hold themselves and each other to a high ethical and working standard. The community I am honored to serve must receive the rights and services they deserve and pay for. Filipinos have contributed much to the culture and law of Hawaii. We have values that must be protected. As we’ve seen in recent Supreme Court rulings and international debates, long-established rights for women, historically-disadvantaged groups, and the environment can be stripped. I will defend those rights and advance the rights of working people in this time of rising costs.

Diamond Garcia
RUNNING FOR: State House, District 42 (Varona Village, Ewa, Kapolei, Fernandez Village)

I was raised on the leeward side of O’ahu, in a typical low-income family. Surrounded by drugs, alcohol, crime & addiction, it seemed like the deck was stacked against me. In my early teens, I found God and dedicated my life to change. I worked tirelessly to send myself through Hawaiian Mission Academy.

Today, I travel the world sharing messages of hope and inspiration to thousands of people worldwide. I was elected (2019 and 2021) and served two terms on Neighborhood Board No. 36, and chaired the Health, Education, Public Safety and Parks committees. For the last four years, I served as Chief of Staff to the Hawaii House Republican Leader Emeritus, and am quite familiar with the daily challenges at the Legislature. I’m ready to hit the ground running on day one for the people of Kapolei and Ewa.

Platform: Every year, over twelve thousand local people leave Hawaii and move to a more affordable State. Hawaii has one of the highest tax burdens in the entire country (among other Democrat-run states). It’s time for tax cuts and less regulation. Let’s also eliminate the income tax and allow local families to keep more of their paycheck. Moreover, we have seen deception, deceit, bribery, and corruption from the highest levels of State Government. The public has lost faith in their leaders. We must stand up to expose corruption in government and hold these career politicians accountable to the voice and will of the people.

Rachele Fernandez Lamosao
RUNNING FOR: State House, District 36 (Waipahu)

I was raised in Waipahu all my life. My parents migrated from the Philippines in the early ’80s. My father is Cebuano and my mother is Ilocano. They worked multiple jobs to provide for our family. Growing up, I quickly learned the meaning of hard work and perseverance from my parents.

I am a proud Marauder, attending school in the community since kindergarten. I attended August Ahrens Elementary, Waipahu Intermediate, and Waipahu High School. I continued my education at Leeward Community College completing my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Then, I attended the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa completing my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Masters in Public Administration. While completing my college education, I raised my son as a single parent. My commitment to my community is most important, so I’ve dedicated myself to public service. I worked as a session staffer at the legislature, then at Hawaii Farm Bureau as Government Relations Manager and Communications Director. Currently, I serve as an Office Manager in the legislature. Giving back to the community that gave so much to me is why I serve as a member of the Waipahu Neighborhood Board and Taste of Waipahu Planning Committee. I also served as a member of the Waipahu High School Academy of Natural Resources Advisory Board.

Platform: As Waipahu continues to grow, I will fight for a safer community by creating stricter laws against violent crimes. I will improve education by fighting for more student resources and opportunities. I will improve the quality of life by fighting for affordable housing in our community and paid family leave. I will improve food security by securing more resources for our farmers and providing incentives to purchase local produce. Lastly, I will improve traffic by expanding the freeways to include more lanes and improve our current roads.

Austin Maglinti

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 39 (Royal Kunia, Waipahu, Honouliuli, Lower Village)

Background: I’m a fourth-generation Hawaiian Filipino born and raised in Oahu. As a small business owner, I learned very early in life how to work hard and never give up until the job is done. I attended and graduated from Kalaheo High School.

During my high school career, I began my fight for a brighter future by joining and attending the Student Council as the Kalaheo High School Student Representative helping to support over 180,000 Public School Students across the state. This opportunity helped kickstart my drive for change in my very own community. I’m the Director of Ministry and Director of Homeless Shelter Outreach at Kupaa Youth Ministry. Currently, I volunteer as a Referee, and mat official for the Hawaii Wrestling Officials Association, and the Audio Director at 1Kingdom Ministries, all while simultaneously working as a small business owner right here in the heart of our community.

Platform: The credibility and accountability of our government are at an all-time low. I believe I can help turn this around. I’m running to serve our communities – if we work together, I know we can make our home an even better place and ensure our children have a chance to thrive in Hawaii. I will fight for a future-ready and protected economy, environment, and education system. In 2020, I ran against then-Rep. Ty Cullen because I felt the need to stand up for trust, integrity, and value. Today, I’m asking you to stand with me and fight for those same core principles once again.

Rose Martinez

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 40 (Lower Village, Iroquois Point, Ewa Beach)

I migrated here to Hawaii 40 years ago from the Philippines and it has become my home since then. My husband, Flor Martinez, and I raised a son now a father of a seven-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. I have six sisters and a brother.

Being partially retired from my health profession and from being an educator, I am now an independent contractor for Medicare Advantage plans and a Financial Advisor. Community service has been my lifeline, from adopting schools, roads beaches, and parks to feeding the homeless to disaster preparedness programs, and many more. I have joined many advocacy groups: protecting and preserving our environment, participated in rallies against gun violence, and volunteered in many activities to serve our elderly population to improve their quality of life. During the early onset of the pandemic, I learned to sew masks and donated thousands nationwide when personal protective equipment was unavailable. During the lockdown, I volunteered to deliver hot meals for 65 days to our kupunas and the homeless population. I believe that giving back to the community is the most valuable effort and a noteworthy achievement one can do to be a productive member of our community.

PLATFORM: As a State Representative, my district priorities are (1) Supporting farmers and producers to encourage farm-to-table in our schools and communities, (2) Fighting for funding to improve schools and libraries in Ewa, (3) Strengthening our Kupuna Care for our aging Seniors, (4) Strengthening support for small business from the State, and (5) Eliminate wasteful spending and duplicative services. I’m aware that active community participation is the key to rebuilding an empowered community. Involvement in community and civic organizations is one of my greatest experiences and I intend to work tirelessly for the betterment of our community.

Samuel Hugo Peralta

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 9 (Kahului, Puunene, Wailuku)

Background: My father was born and raised in Kauai. He is a U.S. veteran and grew up in a sugar plantation camp. He and his father (from Ilocos Norte) worked hard in the HC&S industry here in Hawaiʻi. My mother comes from rural farming in the Philippines (Bicol, Naga) who was an immigrant that worked most of her life in the hotel industry.

After graduating, I spent five years working in Australia in the public/private school system of New South Wales. When I came back to Maui, I studied Hawaiian language (ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi) and environmental politics at University of Hawaiʻi. I also studied governance in the Philippines connected to UHMC international mobility program. I worked in Hawaiian Immersion schools and continue to support Hawaiian language and culture to give back. I have been in the construction and hospitality industry for the past ten years. I was the former University of Hawaiʻi Student Government President and have been in student government since 2018.

Platform: My platform is dreams, hopes, and fears of Hawaiʻi. Reconciliation of Western, Eastern, and Oceanic. A wake a call to the sleepers. A keep on dreaming to dreamers. To those who lost belief in their mothers and fathers. My platform is a teardrop in the abandoned child left at broken rusted bus stops who looks in the mirror and asks how she got there. I am for the father who is tired, an aching body, and wakes up early to give his energy to the “ideal” society. He waʻa he moku, he moku he waʻa. My platform is yours.

Jolyn Garidan Prieto

RUNNING FOR: State House District 35 (Pearl City, Waipahu, Crestview)

Born in Honolulu as part of a third-generation Filipino family, my family and I moved to Crestview in 1992 and have remained there since. My immigrant grandparents worked under challenging conditions to provide their families with a greater opportunity to thrive here on the islands.

From them, I learned the core values of hard work, service and respect but more importantly, to always give back to my community. I attended St. Theresa School in Liliha, graduated with honors from St. Francis School and earned both my BA and MA in Political Science with a focus on public policy from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I’m currently in the Evening Part-Time Program at the William S. Richardson School of Law. After two years as promotions assistant manager and five legislative sessions in the State House of Representatives, in 2014 I began working at the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Local 1463, and am now their Labor and Government Relations Specialist. I coached boys’ volleyball for my grade school; volunteered as an academic tutor at Palama Settlement as well as with the Hawaii Foodbank. I currently serve on the University of Hawaii Center for Labor Education Advisory Council and Aloha Harvest Board of Directors and am a member of the Pacific Century Fellows.

Platform: Our district is faced with pressing concerns, and I’m committed to increasing the quality of life for Hawaii’s working families. I’m focused on building safer communities and ensuring that people have safer livelihoods. I’m a strong advocate for our kupuna and family caregivers and am committed to making sure that our students and our schools are successful. The COVID-19 pandemic deeply affected our economy, and our community is still recovering. I will work to find ways to grow our local economy and create high-paying jobs for our local graduates through greater transparency and community collaboration with our economic recovery planning.

Julie Reyes Oda
RUNNING FOR: State House, District 40 (Lower Village, Iroquois Point, Ewa Beach)

While all of my grandparents worked on the sugar plantations, my paternal grandfather came from the Philippines to work on the plantation in Honokaʻa. My father left the Big Island, joined the Navy during WWII, and was discharged when the war ended. I was born on Oʻahu and lived in ʻEwa for 16 years.

The first five and a half years of my teaching career were spent at James Campbell High School. I am currently a math teacher and department head at Nānākuli High and Intermediate School where I also serve as the chair of the School Community Council. I advocate on behalf of teachers and students in my work and I hope to bring those same qualities with me if elected to represent ʻEwa. I graduated from McKinley High School and earned degrees from Kapiʻolani Community College, Hawaiʻi Pacific University, Western Governors University, and the University of Southern California.

Platform: Schools are in every community, and they produce better citizens. Public education is a right and the amount or quality of that education shouldn’t change based on zip code. I am committed to providing opportunities for all of our kids to earn the credentials to fill high-demand and good-paying local jobs, so no one has to leave the state. We must do what it takes to keep the cost of living affordable for those living in Hawaiʻi. We need to keep rent affordable and make sure people are on the path to homeownership.

Shirley Templo

RUNNING FOR: State House, District 30 (Kalihi, Kalihi Kai, Keehi Lagoon, Hickam Air Force Base, Hickam Village)

My family is from Manila, Philippines. I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and have lived in Kalihi all my life. I graduated from Farrington High School (Go Govs!). I obtained my AA in Liberal Arts from Honolulu Community College and my BA in Political Science and Communication from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

I have dedicated my life to public service because it is my passion, and it is my value. My parents are both public servants and compassionate at heart. My mom Emma was a Barangay Kagawad (Neighborhood Councilor) and my dad Edgardo was a Police Officer in Pasay City, Manila. It is my parents’ passion for service and their hard work as immigrants that inspire me to do better every day. I had the honor of taking part in various organizations and causes focused on empowering our communities. Professionally, I was the Community Liaison/Legislative Aide of former City Councilmember Joey Manahan. On a volunteer basis, I was on the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board, Farrington High School Community Council, KaBATAan: Filipino for Kids Hawai’i, and more.

Platform: To me serving the people means putting our community first and representing their wants and needs collectively. My main objective is to stay true to being a public servant by (1) Bridging the gaps within our community by building and strengthening the connections between our community members and service providers on all levels- socially and economically/private and public, and (2) Ensuring that our community is prioritized and is being allocated optimal funding and resources through collaboration with our area legislators to secure funding and resources for matters like education, healthcare, public safety, housing, and economic growth and resiliency.


Dr. Addison Suero Bulosan
RUNNING FOR: Kauai County Council

Born and raised in Kaua’i, I’m a practicing Chiropractor, small business owner, and community organizer. I currently serve the community as an Advisory Board member with Hawaii Foodbank Kaua’i, President of the Rice Street Business Association, Board member of Leadership Kaua’i, and Board member of Lihue Business Association.

I take pride in my roots as the son of Charlmaine and Adams Bulosan, and the grandson of Catalino and Castora Suero. I’m committed to the values and legacy of Filipino culture through the work of our local community organizations. During the pandemic, I rose to the challenges of the community and organized several different programs to support the community. From food distributions, small business support, and innovative arts and culture installations, I dedicated my time to making sure the Kaua’i community survives the burdens of the challenges. I live in Lihu’e with my fiance Dr. Nicole Cristobal, with our pet Maile. As a family, we are committed to helping the Kaua’i community thrive through their community involvement and small businesses they operate.

Platform: I’m focused on protecting our local people by enabling legislation that prioritizes local working families. Our biggest threat to the Kaua’i community is our housing crisis and I want to tackle that head-on. Workforce and affordable housing are my top priorities. With the rising cost of living and inflation, I’m focused on reducing the financial challenges of our community through legislative moves. Morever, I’m focused on continuing to empower our local community organizations and small businesses to continue to develop our local circular economy, so we are more resilient as a community. The emphasis will be on local agriculture and entrepreneurship.

Tyler Dos Santos-Tam
RUNNING FOR: Honolulu City Council, District 6

I’m running for the City Council, and I bring years of experience as a leader in our community. I served as a member of the Liliha Neighborhood Board for six years. I also serve on the City’s Neighborhood Commission and was its Chair for three years. I was the Executive Director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance (2012-2018) and would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience about construction, zoning, housing policy, and more to the City Council. I started my own consulting business in 2018, which he continues to run today.

I have been a leader in several nonprofits throughout the islands and is the co-founder of HI Good Neighbor. I also served as the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii (2020-2022). I’m a proud descendant of Sakadas from Badoc, Ilocos Norte and also Cebu. I was the recipient of the “Dayaw ti Kailokuan” award and the Philippine Cultural Foundation’s “Young Trailblazer” award in 2018 and was selected to be a member of the FYLPRO Young Leaders program in 2017. I graduated from Punahou School and Yale University.

Platform: I’m running to be a leader who brings energy and vision to the City Council. I will take on tough issues facing our community, including reducing crime, addressing homelessness, maintaining our infrastructure and roads, and creating more affordable housing. I will be a proactive and responsive leader who will make sure the City government follows through on its promises. It would be an honor to have the support of our local Filipino community, and if elected, I will make sure to listen and take action to truly help the people. Please visit VoteTyler.com for more information.

Michelle Maile Galimba
RUNNING FOR: Hawaiʻi County Council, District 6

Background: I am hapa-Filipino: the daughter of Alfred and Sami Galimba, and grand-daughter of Eustaqio and Carlina Galimba of Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi Island. I have lived most of my life in District 6 in many of its far-flung and diverse communities. I have a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of California-Berkeley and spent several years teaching.

However for the past 23 years, I have helped to build my familyʻs cattle ranch into a leading provider of local grass-fed beef for Hawaiʻi. I am also involved in community service at the local, state, and federal levels. I have also helped to conserve thousands of acres of coastal and agricultural lands in my district.

Platform: To me, the takeaway from the experiences of the last few years is that Hawaiʻi must become more resilient.  We need a more diverse economy, a more equitable society, and the strength that comes from our unique local culture where diversity is celebrated while at the same time we value and honor ʻohana and ʻ āina.

Ron Menor
RUNNING FOR: Honolulu City Council, District 8

I was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii. I was inspired to enter public service by my late father Benjamin Menor who immigrated to the Big Island from the Philippines as a child and eventually became a Big Island State Senator and the first person of Filipino ancestry to serve on the Hawaii Supreme Court. He fought for the betterment of working people and equality of opportunity for all of Hawaii’s residents.

These are causes that have also motivated me in my career in public service. In terms of my involvement in public service, I am a former State Senator, State Representative, and most recently, Honolulu City Councilmember representing District 9. I live in Mililani where I moved to as a high school student, raised a family, and started my career as an attorney and in public service. I am married to my wife Pat, who is a public elementary school teacher, and we are proud parents of three sons, one of whom recently graduated from University of California-Los Angeles.

Platform: My top priorities include: fixing and maintaining our City infrastructure; creating more affordable housing opportunities; addressing the homeless crisis more effectively; increasing support for police and first responders, and providing important core services, and improvement projects that our communities need and deserve.

Val Aquino Okimoto
RUNNING FOR: Honolulu City Council, District 8

I’m a State Representative, educator, and most importantly, a mom who wants to see a better future for her daughters. Born and raised on Kauai, I’m the daughter of two lifelong public workers. My father served as a member of the Kauai Fire Department and was a member of HGEA. My mother is a retired administrative professional for the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture. I graduated from Kauai High School Magna Cum Laude as a scholar-athlete in Basketball, Volleyball, and Track & Field. I graduated from Brigham Young University-Hawaii with a BA in Accounting and a Minor in Business Management and began my career at a local CPA firm on Oahu.

I became a certified special education teacher for the State Department of Education, serving the students of Highlands Intermediate for 7 out of my 10 years in the DOE. In 2018, I was elected to the State House of Representatives and am grateful to serve as a vocal advocate for government transparency, financial responsibility, and commonsense leadership. While at the Legislature, I have served on the committees on Labor & Tourism, Economic Development, Education, Higher Education & Technology, Transportation, and Legislative Management.

Platform: I am running for City Council for the opportunity to serve my community in a greater capacity. It is my goal as your next Councilmember to safeguard our community, protect our exceptional natural resources, and lift and guide our unique heritage forward. My votes and the policies I propose will always be with the community’s best interest at heart. I will prioritize policies that result in safe, healthy, and affordable housing options and create greater access to retail, civil services, schools, and employment that support the daily life of our residents.

Shane Palacat-Nelsen
RUNNING FOR: Hawaiʻi County Council, District 6

I was born and raised in rural South Kona surrounded by a large extended family. We farmed coffee, raised animals, and fished to supplement our incomes. I learned firsthand about hard work, determination, and service to community. After graduating from Konawaena High School and Hawaii Pacific University, I spent years in the hotel industry where I developed skills in leveraging resources to achieve business objectives, streamlining processes for efficiency, and accountability in operations, while leading agents to deliver quality authentic services. An important highlight during this tenure includes building alliances between the Waikōloa/Kohala resorts and the Native Hawaiian community through a series of community projects.

I decided to redirect my career path in 2011 and shifted from tourism to advocacy to work more closely with and on behalf of the community where my heart truly is. In my first role, I served Hawai‘i Island as Gov. Abercrombie’s liaison and a year later joined the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to lead its West Hawai‘i Office. Alongside these professional experiences are 30 years of study and practice of hula and chant, gathering practices, traditional farming and fishing, caring for wahi pana, and genealogy research. I’m also a proud lifetime charter member of the Kuakini Hawaiian Civic Club of Kona which focuses on Gov. Kuakiniʻs legacy of economic development, education, resources, land and housing.

Platform: Community first, balance always. As the council member for Kona and Ka’ū, I will bring a collection of experiences to the table and build the necessary bridges to deliver government resources to our community. There are new, once-in-a-lifetime federal funding opportunities for infrastructure and jobs, and we cannot afford to standby and miss the opportunity. We must do this while holding everyone to the highest accountability and transparency standards.

Keani Rawlins-Fernandez
RUNNING FOR: Maui County Council

Background: I was born and raised on Molokai and am Hawaiian, Portuguese, and Filipino with ancestors from Ilocos Norte, Visayas and Cebu. I’m your current Maui County Council Vice-Chair, Budget, Finance, and Economic Development Committee Chair, and served as the Chair of the Council’s two Temporary Investigative Groups: the Tax Reform TIG in 2019 and the Tourism Management and Economic Development TIG in 2021. While I hold the seat for the Molokai residency area, I represent everyone countywide, as it’s a seat voted on by everyone in the County.

I’m a 2001 graduate of Molokai High and Intermediate School, with a BA in Public Relations from Hawai’i Pacific University, an MA in business administration from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and a law degree with certificates specializing in Environmental Law and Native Hawaiian Law from William S. Richardson Law School. Before being elected in 2018, I gained legislative experience by working for Councilmember Elle Cochran and Senator Jarrett Keohokalole. I’m highly qualified and an effective leader for our County, cultivating community, mālama ‘āina, and promoting good governance. It would be an honor to continue serving you!

Platform: Like many of you, my ancestors came here in search of a better life to have a family. It’s incumbent upon us to shape a future they, and generations after us, would be proud of. I believe that investing in our environment and culture is an investment in ourselves; housing should be built responsibly and be attainable to residents; and our economy should improve our quality of life, enabling us to remain living here at home. We will achieve this through bold, thoughtful leadership that’s inclusive of our community.

Shirley Simbre-Medeiros
RUNNING FOR: Kauai County Council

I moved to Kauai in 1973 from Kunia, Oahu. I was married three times. The first two were 14 years each and my present husband of 23 years is Wayne Medeiros who works at Kukui Grove Center for over 37 years. I have five children, 18 grandchildren and 6 and a half great-grandchildren. I adopted 5 of the grandchildren and foster children for the state. I’ve been active with the kupuna for 15 years. I work parttime for Yamaguchi Bus. In 2016, I was awarded the Outstanding Older American Honoree for Kauai.

Platform: As for my platform, I don’t make promises. I’ve heard too much of that promises that it doesn’t get done. I do what must be done and make sure I complete the cycle. People and the public want you to say what they want to hear but it doesn’t work that way.  Everything in life has priorities and I’m game to provide satisfaction to people. Lastly, I want the drug problems we have to end. I’ve lost two grandsons from drug overdose!

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