It’s Anyone’s Race to Win; Top Democratic Lt. Gov. Candidates Appeal to Hawaii’s Filipino Voters for Razor-thin Victory

by Edwin Quinabo

Competitive. Unpredictable. Hawaii’s Democratic party’s Lieutenant Governor race is the one to watch this election cycle.

Early this year State House Finance Chair Sylvia Luke received the lion’s share of the early buzz for LG, taking out filing papers the earliest among the top candidates and appeared poised as the clear frontrunner, at least to government insiders and politicos.

But a recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser Hawaii poll shows the top three candidates are in a dead heat. Luke led the poll with 21%, followed by former mayoral candidate Keith Amemiya (19%) and former Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson (18%). Thirty-eight percent are undecided which still leaves a statistical Hail Mary for Sherry Menor-McNamara, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, who trailed with 4%. The poll has 5.6% margin of error.

The crowded field of candidates actually slimmed out as former state senator Jill Tokuda (took out papers, but did not file) and former state senator and Honolulu City Council member Ron Menor (reportedly interested in the race) have both decided to run for other public office.

A plus for voters, this field has a solid diversity: two career politicians (both with experience as true power brokers) in Luke and Anderson, a private-sector and public-sector executive (but never held public office) in Amemiya, and a powerful lobbyist for Hawaii’s small business sector in Menor-McNamara.

Voters will have the option to vote for more of the same type of leadership in government (since both Luke and Anderson actually held leadership roles) or voters can go with one of the two newcomers hammering the mantra for new leadership, but at the same time, who have been semi-peripheral influencers for quite a while in Hawaii’s tight-knit, networked elite. Amemiya and Menor-McNamara are not exactly outsiders as they are impressing upon the voting public, which actually could be beneficial to not be completely green to politics, voters might think.

Traditionally the lieutenant governor’s office has been a stepping stone office. The obvious trends have been set by George Ariyoshi, John Waihee, Mazie Hirono, Ben Cayetano, Brian Schatz and what could be the state’s next governor Josh Green or Duke Aiona. There also have been dead ends in the LG post  –the most recent example is Shan Tsutsui who had a rocky relationship with Gov. David Ige which led to the former’s ultimate resignation.

More recently the LG Office’s has had successful alumnus – in what could typically be characterized as an assistant-executive-type position – in Shatz and Green, particularly for Green whose medical background as a physician made his expertise particularly useful during the pandemic’s high point. Likewise in theory, during this phase of economic recovery from the pandemic, Amemiya and more so, Menor-McNamara, arguably more than other candidates could offer a specialized skill set in business most suited to aid the next governor.

But economic recovery and renewed calls for diversifying the state’s economy is but one among other crisis-level issues high among voters wish-list of priorities. The other is the need for more affordable housing. In a 2022 CNBC’s exclusive America’s Top States for Business study, Hawaii came in at number one in the nation as the most expensive state to live. It lists the average home price (Honolulu) at $1,399.439. According to another study by Finder, Hawaii is the most expensive state in terms of energy bills.  The average monthly energy bill for the Aloha State is $321 which equals to $3,856 a year.

But housing (in mortgage and rent) requires the vast bulk of Hawaii residents’ monthly expenses, which could explain both Amemiya and Anderson’s high placement in the Star-Advertiser poll with the two making the issue as the centerpiece of their candidacy. Amemiya is pushing his Housing for All Plan (assessing zoning regulations, providing funds to subsidize infrastructure development, looking at green taxes) and Anderson repeatedly talks about building workforce housing on state-owned land and kauhale (tiny homes) villages to shelter the homeless populations across the state.

While Luke also prioritizes housing, her plan is harder to sell as a long-time office holder at the highest echelon of policy-making. In fairness to Luke, the average voters aren’t aware of all the state’s accomplishments (of which Luke is largely responsible for) in housing. And their belief that considerably more needs to get done would actually entail rigid government intervention into market forces. Luke is calling for more housing innovative approaches to defray construction costs of homes and providing loans to developers.

Menor-McNamara, on housing, supports a rent-to-own program, repurposing existing and underutilized commercial and state buildings, controlling constructions costs, and establishing a self-sufficiency program to help those in public housing to transition to affordable housing.

On diversifying the economy, all the top Democratic party candidates are emphasizing the viability and need to bolster the state’s agriculture industry. Amemiya points to the urgency (as shown by the pandemic) for Hawaii to become more self-reliant in food production. Luke mentions creating food hubs to act as distribution networks on behalf of farmers. For Menor-McNamara, strengthening agriculture is one part of her overall sustainable economic recovery plan. Anderson says the state should make agriculture a CORE service and to treat it as such.

Find out more on the candidates plans in our cover story. There are many candidates in the Democratic party primary election for Lieutenant Governor. But for the following Q&A, the HFC editorial board narrowed our coverage to the top four: Amemiya, Anderson, Luke and Menor-McNamara. The Q&A has been edited for space and clarity.

CANDIDATES Q&A

KEITH AMEMIYA

BACKGROUND/REASON FOR RUNNING

AMEMIYA:
In listening to communities across Hawaiʻi, we all deserve someone we can trust and who will fight for our families and our future. I want to change the status quo by putting our local families first.  Growing up, although life was not always easy for my family, I had a lot of opportunities, and I believe I owe it to my community to give others the same opportunities I had.

As a business leader, I worked to bridge gaps with communities. I worked to address long-standing problems, increased funding and access for rural communities, and partnered with Marcus Mariota and Carissa Moore to keep our families fed during the pandemic.  I’m running because our families work hard for their kids to have a better life, and we need leaders in government that will do the same.  I believe with my passion and experience, I can be that leader for Hawaiʻi.

HFC: Many believe the role of Lt. Governor can be more impactful. We’ve seen this recently in the working relationship between Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green with regard to addressing the pandemic. Lt. Gov. was given major responsibilities in public health’s response to COVID-19. As Lt. Governor, what role do you see yourself having? Is there a specific area you would want the governor to have you spearhead on his or her behalf?

AMEMIYA
: We have to get the cost of living under control – too many of our families are having to leave every year.  First: we need to tackle our affordable housing crisis. The Lieutenant Governor’s office is an office of opportunity.  I will work with the Governor to empower our office around affordable housing and dedicate staff and resources to work with statewide initiatives, partner with counties to streamline processes, and make land and infrastructure available.   Former Lieutenant Governor Schatz developed a team to pursue federal funding, something we should reconstitute to secure the billions needed for our state.

HFC: We’ve been hearing from voters, our communities, and politicians themselves about the need to work on the housing crisis that include unaffordable real estate, super high rentals, as well as inventory shortage. How would you improve our housing crisis?


AMEMIYA
: Without a doubt, this will be the major challenge of the incoming administration.  If elected, I am committed to bringing together public and private networks to commit true time and resources.  The challenges in addressing affordable housing over the past few decades has not been one of a lack of innovative ideas or necessary resources – it has been a failure of political will to dedicate the needed time and funding to execute.

One important responsibility will be to plan for and execute the $600 million that was allocated in 2022 to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.  This is not just about long-standing commitments to the Hawaiian community – every single home that is built by DHHL is one that is affordable and used to house a local family.  This is not only good for our Hawaiian community but for all of Hawaiʻi.

My Housing for All Plan takes a comprehensive look while identifying key next steps that can quickly move us in the direction of building homes.  For example, the state needs to work with the counties to ensure zoning regulations help support development for residential housing.  We need to dedicate significant funds to subsidize the cost of infrastructure development for affordable housing developers. We need to identify state lands that make sense for housing our communities.  We need to contemplate innovative revenue generation opportunities, including potential green taxes, to create more funding. Most importantly, we need to be pau with the reasons why “no can” and start getting it done.

HFC:
The pandemic has showed us that tourism must be supported by other industries. This election in particular the buzz word is diversification. Candidates have mentioned areas to build on such as high tech, agriculture, alternative energy, healthcare, etc. In New York State, we see finance as a top industry. In California, it’s high-tech. Both states have a large tourism industry. Instead of mentioning all the other areas of diversification, what can Hawaii be known as to the world as an industry core besides tourism (name one, how can we build it)?

AMEMIYA: There are many inspirational things happening that can each help to build exciting opportunities for Hawaiʻi’s future.  The work that Hawaiʻi has done to advance its digital economy is critical in establishing new economic opportunities.  Each will require the state to lean in on its digital literacy and planning to ensure a fully digitally literate workforce, bringing public and private sector partners together.

Hawaiʻi can be known as a place for culture and innovation.  Both film and media production as well as technology and innovation work together and have demonstrated potential that has not been fully realized.  Beyond using our islands as a site for filming, there are creative tax credits that would incentivize the development of brick-and-mortar studios locally that could generate significant funds. Other cities have pivoted to make themselves attractive to production companies and have reaped the benefits. We have talented local producers and compelling stories to tell that can be part of a regenerative economy.

The same can be said for using the state’s commercial and industrial holdings as potential sites for technology companies in the biotechnology and innovative technology sectors. Utilizing creative tax credits to incentivize companies to relocate to Hawaiʻi, we can generate much needed revenue. It would also create a diverse field of new local jobs that pay competitively in industries to help keep our young people in Hawaiʻi and create more remote working opportunities so workers can spend more time with their families rather than on the road.

HFC: One area that is a national trend since the pandemic is an increase in violent crimes and crimes (previously unique but have become more common) such as home invasions, street robberies and assault. Rising crime (and the fear of it) is changing our sense of Aloha in our state. What will you do to address crime?

AMEMIYA
: Our families thrive when our communities are safe.  Much of the direct work in addressing crime is done at the County level.  However, the State can support funding, including attracting federal resources, and support training, community outreach, and other proven strategies.  Large vacancies in our first responders make it harder for them to do their job.  The State can also help to fund social services adequately so that our Police Officers are focused on addressing crimes and not having to wear the hat of social services and healthcare providers.  The State also plays an important role in ensuring that our prisons are providing adequate services, education, and support to those being released so they have housing and employment opportunities, dramatically decreasing recidivism rates.  Ultimately, we have to work together across the community and government to collaborate on solutions that address root causes for our communities.

HFC: There are so many other areas to address not mentioned above. Please use this space to address just one or two of the following issues: homelessness, bolstering small business, taxes, social services support.  Or any area of your choice.

AMEMIYA: Being able to house our families is at the heart of our responsibility to ensure a basic quality of life for our communities.  My experience with Kahauiki Village, a public-private partnership to create housing for over 600 people who were previously houseless, including over 300 children, has made it clear to me that we can and must do more to help families exit homelessness.

In addition to creating long-term housing that our families can actually afford, the state has neglected supporting the mental health needs of our community.  In supporting my mother and her challenges with mental health, I have seen firsthand the lack of resources needed for individuals and families. The additional space at the Hawai’i State Hospital is a start, but we need long-term treatment facilities for our communities that don’t require someone to hurt another person before they receive care.

HFC: Which gubernatorial candidate would you like to work with as his or her Lt. Governor? If you cannot commit to an answer, please tell us what is your previous working relationship with any one or all of the top Democratic candidates (since you are running as a Democrat).

AMEMIYA
: I have had the opportunity to work with all three Democratic candidates for Governor and believe I can be an effective complement to each.  One of the things that distinguishes me from my opponents is my experience in working as an executive in both the public and private sector.  My time with the UH Regents and as the head of High School Sports gave me the opportunity to understand how to move complex and important issues through government, something I believe will serve any Governor well and make me ready to tackle affordable housing challenges head on.

HFC: Why should Hawaii’s Filipino community vote for you?

AMEMIYA
: I have learned from my relationships in the Filipino community the incredible importance of taking care of our families.  My vision for Hawaiʻi is based upon the idea that by putting our families and our keiki first, together we will build a stronger, more just, and more sustainable Hawaiʻi.


IKAIKA ANDERSON

BACKGROUND/REASONS FOR RUNNING

ANDERSON
: As a former City Council member and former Chair and Presiding Officer of the Honolulu City Council, my experience as an elected executive will be invaluable in complimenting the governor to lead our state.  As Council Chair, I established policies and procedures that kept Honolulu’s legislative branch of 155+ employees safe through the COVID pandemic, and excelled in making prompt decisions with available information.  As an elected executive, I am ready to serve the people of Hawaii at a moment’s notice.  I am also running for Lt. Governor to build more workforce housing for our residents and to build more kauhale (tiny home) villages for our houseless population.

HFC: Many believe the role of Lt. Governor can be more impactful. We’ve seen this recently in the working relationship between Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green with regard to addressing the pandemic. Lt. Gov. was given major responsibilities in public health’s response to COVID-19. As Lt. Governor, what role do you see yourself having? Is there a specific area you would want the governor to have you spearhead on his or her behalf?

ANDERSON
: My main priority as Lieutenant Governor will be to focus on the development of affordable housing for our residents.  This includes building workforce housing on state-owned land and kauhale (tiny homes) villages to shelter our homeless populations across the state.

HFC: We’ve been hearing from voters, our communities, and politicians themselves of the need to work on the housing crisis that include unaffordable real estate, super high rentals, as well as inventory shortage. How would you improve our housing crisis?

ANDERSON
: To facilitate an increased inventory of affordable housing for residents, the State should:

*Review and update the definitions for affordable housing so that they are not rooted in market-based applications, which tend to work against individuals and families in the rental market whose earnings are at 60% Area Median Income (AMI) and below.
 
*Review the existing inventory of underutilized State and county properties for potential use as sites for affordable rental housing, particularly on Oahu.

*Consider alternative means of funding and building affordable housing units such as through non-profit development corporations.  We must explore and consider all opportunities to offset or lower development costs.

*Encourage DHHL to diversify its own mission beyond the traditional homestead model through the development of affordable rentals for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries, many of whom cannot presently afford to build and own a home.

HFC: The pandemic has showed us that tourism must be supported by other industries. This election in particular the buzz word is diversification. Candidates have mentioned areas to build on such as high tech, agriculture, alternative energy, healthcare, etc. In New York State, we see finance as a top industry. In California, it’s high-tech. Both states have a large tourism industry. Instead of mentioning all the other areas of diversification, what can Hawaii be known as to the world as an industry core besides tourism (name one, how can we build it)?

ANDERSON
: The State of Hawaii should pursue sound 21st-century agricultural policies that enhance our food security and mitigate our present overreliance on imports from the continental United States and foreign points of origin.   Also, the state should consider making agriculture a CORE service and treat it as such. I have heard from farmers across the state how difficult it is to get their products to market, and we must provide the infrastructure to allow them to do so efficiently and cost effectively.

It is imperative that we recommit ourselves to the support of sustainable and diversified agriculture, and to the further safeguarding of Hawaii’s most productive agricultural lands.

(I would note that we presently import up to 90% of the food consumed by residents and visitors, which is potentially problematic should anything happen to disrupt our islands’ shipping lifelines. According to DBEDT, a reduction of that percentage by just ten points would redirect about $313 million per year back into the local economy.)

The University of Hawaii holds great potential as an economic engine and driver for our islands.  As lieutenant governor, I would urge the State to encourage this partnership with the University of Hawaii and to further consider other prospects for collaborative efforts.

HFC: One area that is a national trend since the pandemic is an increase in violent crimes and crimes (previously unique but have become more common) such as home invasions, street robberies and assault. Rising crime (and the fear of it) is changing our sense of Aloha in our state. What will you do to address crime?

ANDERSON
: I support reforming the cash bail system here in Hawai‘i. And starting this year, with House Bill 1567, those discussions on how to reform the system were done by the legislature. That bill did pass, but was vetoed by the governor as it was not the right legislation to address this issue. I look forward as Lt. Governor to being a part of a team of leaders in Hawai‘i to look once again at reforming the cash bail system and coming up with common-sense, good legislation that will be effective for all vested parties involved with this issue.  We must support our Police Department and make sure they have the resources and tools to combat crime.

HFC: There are so many other areas to address not mentioned above. Please use this space to address just one or two of the following issues: homelessness, bolstering small business, taxes, social services support.  Or any area of your choice.

ANDERSON
: While serving as Chair of the Honolulu City Council, my office partnered with Lieutenant Governor Josh Green’s office and members of the Waimanalo community to establish Hui Mahi‘ai ‘Aina, a communal village modeled on the Kauhale (tiny village) concept, which offers shelter and corresponding wrap-around services to our local homeless population.

We should expand this concept across the state. As Lieutenant Governor, my office will identify state-owned lands across Hawaii where additional Kauhale are feasible, and work with the governor and local communities to establish more of these villages to service our homeless ‘ohana.

HFC: Which gubernatorial candidate would you like to work with as his or her Lt. Governor? If you cannot commit to an answer, please tell us what is your previous working relationship with any one or all of the top Democratic candidates (since you are running as a Democrat).

ANDERSON
: I would complement all three Governor candidates as I bring experience as an elected executive to the job.  As stated in the previous answer, I worked with Josh Green to build the first Kahuale (tiny homes) to the local homeless population in Waimanalo.  Professionally, I know Kai Kahele through my work at the Honolulu City Council and personally know ”Kai the Fisherman” from Milolii.  My grandpa and uncle worked with Governor Cayetano in the State Legislature and we have nothing but aloha for the Cayetano family.

HFC: Why should Hawaii’s Filipino community vote for you?

ANDERSON
: I was raised by my grandparents and am a single father to four children.  Family is important to me and through the lens of family I will always protect Hawaii with my heart and soul to ensure we can provide a better tomorrow for our children and our future generations.


SYLVIA LUKE

BACKGROUND/REASONS FOR RUNNING

LUKE
: I was recently endorsed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser because I am the “most experienced, strategic and battle-tested candidate.” My years of public service gives me a unique understanding of state laws, procedures and the people who make the decisions.  The editorial noted I am the “best equipped to deal with some of the looming problems the state faces over the next four years, including the housing crisis, education budget and staffing shortfalls plus the need to shore up Hawaii’s infrastructure and economy against the effects of climate change.”  I believe Hawaii needs a Lieutenant Governor who can help create change and be a channel for our communities to make sure voices from across our state are heard. Together, let’s make preschool available to all, build housing that’s affordable and take care of our `aina and its people. I will work hard to help make Hawaii better for all of us.

HFC: Many believe the role of Lt. Governor can be more impactful. We’ve seen this recently in the working relationship between Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green with regard to addressing the pandemic. Lt. Gov. was given major responsibilities in public health’s response to COVID-19. As Lt. Governor, what role do you see yourself having? Is there a specific area you would want the governor to have you spearhead on his or her behalf?

LUKE
: Using my state experience and knowledge, I’d be a Lieutenant Governor that helps the Governor with the Legislature and collaborates with state departments and the community for change.

While affordable housing is a critical issue that’s covered later, my other priority is early learning.  Our current preschool capacity only serves half of Hawaii’s 3- to 4 year-olds.  Childcare is one of the largest household expenses, so offering free early learning alleviates a significant strain on our working families. I will secure more funding to build preschools and work to see that these classrooms get built.

HFC: We’ve been hearing from voters, our communities, and politicians themselves of the need to work on the housing crisis that include unaffordable real estate, super high rentals, as well as inventory shortage. How would you improve our housing crisis?

LUKE
: Hawaii needs more affordable housing for our working families and young professionals.  Experts say we need for 36,155 units by 2030. My son Logan is currently attending college in the mainland, and I am really concerned whether he will be able to come home after graduation. Not just because of opportunities up there, but because I don’t know if he sees himself being able to return and make Hawaii his home.  It’s sad that a place he grew up all his life, he has trouble seeing a future here. Median prices are over $1M now, and it outprices young professional and working families from buying a home.  Our state needs to get serious about providing more affordable housing opportunities if we want to see our kamaaina stay and live here.

As Finance Chair, I helped create more supply of affordable housing using federal money and extending tax credits to increase the supply of low-income rentals. I also helped provide $500 million so that the state can help develop approximately 3000 new units.  We also need to try different innovative approaches to defray the construction costs of homes, like providing loans to developers to assist with infrastructure when they agree to keeping home prices affordable.  If elected as LG, I will work with both the State and the Counties to fast track some of these projects so that units get built quickly.

HFC: The pandemic has showed us that tourism must be supported by other industries. This election in particular the buzz word is diversification. Candidates have mentioned areas to build on such as high-tech, agriculture, alternative energy, healthcare, etc. In New York State, we see finance as a top industry. In California, it’s high-tech. Both states have a large tourism industry. Instead of mentioning all the other areas of diversification, what can Hawaii be known as to the world as an industry core besides tourism (name one, how can we build it)?

LUKE
: Economic diversification is critical because wages in service related jobs remains limited.  I am a strong supporter of agriculture and want to see it as a stronger pilar of our economy.  The lesson from the last two years is that the State must be more self-reliant in food production.  The State can provide more suitable agriculture lots for use by farmers, support farm hubs and provide incentives to encourage people to enter farming as a profession.

There are several recent initiatives I supported as a legislator like a state tax exemption for income derived from taro, taro products and land used to produce taro, supporting the University of Hawaii’s Statewide Farmer Training courses that include beginner courses, pro level, and even agricultural business courses, and creating food hubs to act as distribution networks on behalf of small farmers.

If elected as LG, I plan to continue to support measures and programs that encourage the people of Hawaii to buy and eat local, increase locally grown food production by supporting farmers and improving agricultural infrastructure and engage with government, non-profit, and private sector stakeholders to identify and collaborate towards positive and innovative solutions to boost food productions towards Hawaii’s self-sufficiency.

HFC: One area that is a national trend since the pandemic is an increase in violent crimes and crimes (previously unique but have become more common) such as home invasions, street robberies and assault. Rising crime (and the fear of it) is changing our sense of Aloha in our state. What will you do to address crime?

LUKE
: Unfortunately, many of the current crimes are conducted by repeat offenders with many prior arrests and convictions. And while our laws are generally strong on sentencing and punishment, our prisons are overcrowded, our courts are overwhelmed as we our law enforcement agencies are struggling to keep perpetrators off the streets.  I have strongly supported the need for more prison space, for our courts to more quickly bring arrested and charged defendants to trial and sentencing, and we need more programs to divert non-violent and non-repeat offenders.  This will require more collaboration between our police, our prosecutors, our courts and judges and our public safety department who manages our prison and prisoners.  As Lt. Governor, I am prepared to convene these key stakeholders and work on a cooperative plan so that we can keep repeat offenders and violent perpetrators in our prisons.

HFC: There are so many other areas to address not mentioned above. Please use this space to address just one or two of the following issues: homelessness, bolstering small business, taxes, social services support.  Or any area of your choice.

LUKE
: Homelessness is an issue that has plagued our communities for years and only seems to be getting worse.  But, there is no easy solutions or single set of factors leading to homelessness.  The 2022 “Point In Time Count”  found 54% could be categorized as “chronically homeless” and most, 65% suffered from disabling conditions, while 35% were physically or developmentally disabled preventing them from being able to work.  Many were mentally ill (38%) and many suffering from substance abuse (33%). But, 11% were employed and 12% were veterans.

This snapshot demonstrates the wide range of issues that many of these homeless individuals face. While there is obviously overlap, it simply demonstrates that there is no one or small causes, and no one or mere handful of solutions.  More importantly, this means government – federal, state and county – to be working in coordination, along with the multiple state agencies – human services, veterans services, health, judiciary, public safety – all working on the same plan , and most critically, in cooperation with our community and nonprofit partners.

HFC: Which gubernatorial candidate would you like to work with as his or her Lt. Governor? If you cannot commit to an answer, please tell us what is your previous working relationship with any one or all of the top Democratic candidates (since you are running as a Democrat).

LUKE
: I can work with any of the top 3 Democratic Governor candidates.  I have served with Lt. Governor Green and Congressman Kahele in the legislature and I have worked with Ms. Cayetano on nonprofit projects. My experience in a diverse body like the legislature where I’ve worked with 4 different Governors over the years has provided me with the skills to collaborate with many types of leaders. I will be the Governor’s effective partner to create change in our community and I will use these skills to help find solutions on critical and complex public policy issues.

HFC: Why should Hawaii’s Filipino community vote for you?

LUKE
: I have a strong record supporting issues close to the Filipino community such as funding the Filipino Community Center, strengthening the state Office of Language Access so residents can have equal access to necessary state services, and supporting the caregiver industry such as residential, long term and nursing care homes.


SHERRY MENOR-MCNAMARA

BACKGROUND/REASONS FOR RUNNING

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
I come from a family of immigrants. My grandparents, Angelo and Paulino Menor, came to Hawaii from the village of Calayab in the Philippines and started a farm in Pahoa on Hawaii Island. My mother, Naomi, moved from her home in Japan with no money in search of a better life. My father, Barney Menor served in the House of Representatives before eventually becoming the Managing Director of the Hawaii County. They raised me with the values of hard work, respect and community.

We are at a defining moment where the costs of living and doing business continue to get worse. Currently, I serve as the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii where I’ve spent my career fighting for our local small businesses, creating opportunities, and finding solutions. Now, I’m running for Lieutenant Governor to get things done and deliver results for all the people of Hawaii.

HFC: Many believe the role of Lt. Governor can be more impactful. We’ve seen this recently in the working relationship between Gov. David Ige and Lt. Gov. Josh Green with regard to addressing the pandemic. Lt. Gov. was given major responsibilities in public health’s response to COVID-19. As Lt. Governor, what role do you see yourself having? Is there a specific area you would want the governor to have you spearhead on his or her behalf?

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
As we continue to navigate out of the pandemic, my number one priority will be to guide a strong and sustainable economic recovery that will help our local workers and their families, as well as support our struggling small businesses. I will work to create a comprehensive and innovative economic recovery plan that will lower the costs of living and doing business in Hawaii, diversify our economy, remove burdensome regulations, reduce government red-tape, create more workforce development and vocational training opportunities so people can get good paying jobs, and maximize the use of federal funds available to the State.

HFC: We’ve been hearing from voters, our communities, and politicians themselves of the need to work on the housing crisis that include unaffordable real estate, super high rentals, as well as inventory shortage. How would you improve our housing crisis?

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
This is a crisis that has been decades in the making. As Lieutenant Governor, I will work shoulder-to-shoulder with our new Governor to finally address this crisis. We will need to implement an affordable housing agenda quickly with the types of investments needed to make it successful. I will also recommend common-sense solutions like a rent-to-own program, repurposing existing and underutilized commercial and state buildings, and making sure our public housing inventory is available to low-income families are included in the governor’s proposals sent to the legislature.

In addition, I will use my business expertise and acumen to bring together government agencies, labor unions, developers, builders, and community organizations to see what can be done immediately to increase inventory, control constructions costs, and reduce regulations and red-tape that is standing in the way of building new units.

We also must continue to invest in our workforce by partnering with the construction industry to offer more vocational training programs so that our next generation of workers have the skillsets needed to fill future construction jobs.

I will also convene stakeholders and service providers to develop, invest in, and implement a Self-Sufficiency program to help those in public housing to transition to affordable housing.

HFC: The pandemic has showed us that tourism must be supported by other industries. This election in particular the buzz word is diversification. Candidates have mentioned areas to build on such as high tech, agriculture, alternative energy, healthcare, etc. In New York State, we see finance as a top industry. In California, it’s high tech. Both states have a large tourism industry. Instead of mentioning all the other areas of diversification, what can Hawaii be known as to the world as an industry core besides tourism (name one, how can we build it)?

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
Tourism will always be the state’s number one economic driver and provider of jobs.  However, there is no reason why we are not ranked in the top 10 states for renewable energy.  In order for us to be a leader in this field, state government must do more to support the renewable energy sector by removing unnecessary and outdated regulations that are road blocks standing in the way of large-scale projects moving forward.  We must also ensure that our energy policies adapt as quickly as new renewable energy technology develops.  Finally, we must work with the Public Utilities Commission to invest more into our energy distributions infrastructure so that our storage and distribution systems can handle the changes in how energy is delivered to our homes and businesses.

In addition to serving as model to the rest of the nation, and to the world, these types of investments will also protect our environment, decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, help the state meet its renewable energy goals, address climate change issues such as rising sea levels and erosion of beaches, and protect our other natural resources like our watersheds.

HFC: One area that is a national trend since the pandemic is an increase in violent crimes and crimes (previously unique but have become more common) such as home invasions, street robberies and assault. Rising crime (and the fear of it) is changing our sense of Aloha in our state. What will you do to address crime?

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
The health and safety of our people is of utmost importance. While this area is largely controlled on the county level, the State also has a role in ensuring that our people and our communities are safe. We should be investing more into substance abuse and mental health services to get people the help they need before they resort to crime.

The State also needs to step up and invest in a new Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) in Halawa. The conditions of the current facility are deplorable, provide neither a safe environment for the staff to work or humane conditions for the incarcerated to live. The new facility should incorporate more treatment, job training, and rehabilitation services to the inmates so that they can become productive members of society once they are released. Kicking the can down the road any further will only increase the costs to taxpayers.

HFC: There are so many other areas to address not mentioned above. Please use this space to address just one or two of the following issues: homelessness, bolstering small business, taxes, social services support.  Or any area of your choice.

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
I want to restore trust and faith in government. One of the ways of doing this is to make sure that the whole of government works better, costs less, and delivers real results for our people.  I will ask the governor to empower me with a bold initiative to reform and reinvent our state government by:

*Identifying wasteful spending.

*Removing roadblocks to progress such as outdated rules and regulations.

*Reducing burdensome red tape.

*Form new partnerships with the private sector to fill gaps in services, particularly in the areas of providing access to quality healthcare in our rural communities and neighbor island, as well as more vocational training and workforce development opportunities for our young people

*Move more government services online.

*Reform policies for state departments and agencies with direct contact with the public to deliver better customer service.

HFC: Which gubernatorial candidate would you like to work with as his or her Lt. Governor? If you cannot commit to an answer, please tell us what is your previous working relationship with any one or all of the top Democratic candidates (since you are running as a Democrat).

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
That is a choice for the people of Hawaii to make. I’ve worked, and have good relationships, with all three of the leading gubernatorial candidates. For Josh Green and Kai Kahele, I worked with them both during their service in the Legislature as well as in their current roles of Lieutenant Governor and Congressman, respectively. For Vicky Cayetano, I worked with her when she was the Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors. I believe I bring the background, skills, business perspective, and real-world experiences that will best complement our new governor and bring balance to our administration.

HFC: Why should Hawaii’s Filipino community vote for you?

MENOR-MCNAMARA:
Representation matters. The fact that I will be the first Filipina to be elected Lieutenant Governor in the history of the United States is not lost on me. I will work hard every day to make our community proud and make sure our voices are always heard and never forgotten.


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