Five Lieutenant Governor Candidates Share Their Views
This year’s race for lieutenant governor has attracted a crowded field of 11 candidates: five Democrats, three Republicans, two nonpartisans and one Green Party member — all vying to be second in command of the state and the acting governor when the governor is out of state or incapacitated. We emailed the following questionnaire to each of the candidates at their address listed on the state Office of Elections website. The following five candidates responded.
We start this questionnaire with a brief profile of the candidates who responded, in alphabetical order.
BERNARD CARVALHO JR.
Island of residence: Kaua‘i
Current occupation: Mayor, County of Kaua‘i, since 2008
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous political experience: Kaua‘i County Mayor and previous appointed positions
Island of residence: Big Island
Current occupation: Physician/State Senator
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous political experience: Hawai‘i State House of Representatives, 2004-2008; Hawai‘i State Senate, 2008-present
KIM COCO IWAMOTO
Island of residence: O‘ahu
Current occupation: Small business owner
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous political experience: Elected Board of Education, December 2006-April 2011
Island of residence: O‘ahu
Current occupation: Research analyst
Party affiliation: Republican
Previous political experience: Candidate for State Senate 1992, won contested Republican primary election; candidate for Honolulu City Council 2010; candidate for State House 2012, won contested Republican primary election
Island of residence: O‘ahu
Current occupation: State Senator
Party affiliation: Democrat
Previous political experience: State Senator since November 2006
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO RUN FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR AS OPPOSED TO ANY OF THE OTHER MORE HIGH-PROFILE RACES?
BERNARD CARVALHO: I believe the lieutenant governor’s office can and should be the people’s office. My strength as a leader is bringing people together, and this office has the potential to be that bridge between the people and their government.
As mayor of Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau for the past 10 years, I’ve enjoyed building teams and empowering them to work on practical solutions. Together as a county, we’ve set footprints to address issues that affect not just our county, but the entire state. I’ve decided it’s time to take those footprints to the next level.
With the support of my family, we decided my next step in public service would be as lieutenant governor. Together as the people of Hawai‘i, we can make our state a better place for everyone if we come together and THINK BIG.
JOSH GREEN: I have spent my entire adult life caring for the people of Hawai‘i as a doctor and as a policy maker working on issues like access to healthcare for children, affordable college and solutions to our homeless crisis. As lieutenant governor, I intend to take ownership of the homeless crisis and the opioid epidemic and show that Hawai‘i can lead the nation on solutions to these problems.
I have a young family and being able to take up these challenges as a physician leader here at home would be a blessing for us.
KIM COCO IWAMOTO: The lieutenant governor’s office has been one of the most underutilized resources in Hawai‘i government. While the physical footprint of the office is the same size as the governor’s office, it has been wasted space — an oversized waiting room for a silent understudy to the governor. With a staff of 13 people, the LG’s office could be doing so much more for the people of Hawai‘i.
Corporations are spending millions of dollars to elevate their influence at the State Capitol — I want to make sure there is at least one office focused on elevating the people’s voice, their concerns and their community-based solutions. The LG’s office can serve as the people’s office, where those of us working on the front lines of our state’s most pressing problems can build our coalitions, coalesce our power and reclaim our democracy.
JEREMY LOW: The Office of Lieutenant Governor has been underutilized for years. As lieutenant governor, I will be a very proactive advocate for good public policies. I also see the lieutenant governor becoming an unofficial inspector general, which would be very different than the state auditor.
The lieutenant governor is part of the executive branch. The state auditor is part of the legislative branch. The lieutenant governor is elected by the people. The state auditor is selected by the majority of the Legislature. The state auditor just writes reports and can’t fine or sue anyone. The lieutenant governor could actually root out the waste and fraud in the state government bureaucracy. As a Hawai‘i state constitutional officer, the lieutenant governor has the duty and authority to do much more than past lieutenant governors have done. It’s a matter of backbone and political will and not just waiting around as a political understudy.
JILL TOKUDA: My answer is simple: I understand families’ struggles, pains, opportunities and joys because I have been there myself and live it now.
As a yonsei (fourth-generation Japanese American) with young parents working multiple jobs to make ends meet, my grandparents helped to raise me and instilled in me many of the values I now seek to pass on to our two boys. I was fortunate that diligence and my parents’ discipline made me the first in my family to attend college. When costs went up, I graduated in three and a half years because I could not afford to stay at the university longer.
Today, my husband and I are like many people and those who came before us. We work hard and stretch our budget to provide for our family, living in a three-generation household with everyone pitching in to take care of each other.
I am running for lieutenant governor because working men and women, our families, need a strong voice and champion in the executive branch. I have taken tough positions and fought to make government more responsive and responsible and will continue to do so as your lieutenant governor.
WHAT SPECIAL SKILLS OR EXPERIENCE WOULD YOU BRING TO THE OFFICE OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, AND HOW WOULD YOU PUT THEM TO WORK IN THAT CAPACITY?
BERNARD CARVALHO: I am the only candidate for lieutenant governor with public service and executive leadership experience. As mayor, my team and I don’t just develop policy, but we also implement policy. To be a leader means you do more than legislate. To be a leader you must know how to implement policy that creates opportunities for our community.
I know what it is to provide the vision and the leadership for an organization composed of multiple departments and diverse public services. Serving as mayor means I am the chief executive of a team that includes the complex responsibilities of emergency management, economic development, elderly services, housing, finance, the fire and police departments, public works and more.
Every day, I lead this complex organization to serve the public. No other candidate has this important experience.
JOSH GREEN: As a practicing physician, I see our greatest challenges through the lens of helping people in crisis. This capacity makes it possible for me to add real expertise and meaningful problem-solving to some of our greatest challenges. I will fight the federal government if they try to take away our Medicare or Medicaid resources. I also will use my medical background to improve our mental health care system and ability to address addiction.
KIM COCO IWAMOTO: I am the only attorney in the race and the only candidate that has passed the Hawai‘i Legal Ethics Examination. Ethics and integrity go hand-in-hand. I am the only candidate that has rejected contributions from corporations, their political action committees and the Super PACs they fund. Meanwhile, all the other candidates in this race have collectively spent 52 years in elected office collecting big money from big-pharma, agri-chemical corporations, the National Rifle Association, or other monied special interests AND their armies of lobbyists.
I became an attorney to prevent and correct government-sanctioned injustices. Growing up, I listened to my mother share stories about her childhood in the dusty internment camps of Poston, Arizona. The United States targeted her and her family and so many others, just for being who they were — not based on anything they did. And then when I was 23, living in New York City, I experienced this indignation of being discriminated against in my workplace just for being who I was, not my work performance.
I’m proud of my work to enact and enforce civil rights laws to protect the values of hardworking people — to give them an equal standing to laws protecting corporations. I was also elected twice to the state Board of Education and led efforts to reduce bullying in the public schools.
JEREMY LOW: I have worked in all three branches of state government — executive, legislative and judicial. I have also worked at the University of Hawai‘i and [for] private nonprofits. I am very familiar with the waste and fraud that occurs on a daily basis in the Hawai‘i state government bureaucracy. One of the reasons I am running for lieutenant governor is to stop all of this waste and fraud. With a new administration sworn in (a new sheriff in town) and new policies, we can instantly save Hawai‘i taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. You can find more information about my experiences and background on my website: VoteJeremyLow.com.
JILL TOKUDA: I am the only candidate for lieutenant governor who has had decision-making responsibility and experience with respect to a broad range of statewide issues of concern to state residents and state government.
During my tenure in the Senate, I served as the chair of various committees that had jurisdiction over agriculture, Hawaiian affairs, water and land use, lower and higher education and labor.
I served as the Committee on Ways and Means (WAM) chair from 2015 to 2017. This experience was instrumental in preparing me for higher state office. WAM had jurisdiction over the state budget and public expenditures.
I would often sit at the kitchen table working on the state budget next to our two sons doing their homework. As I helped them add and subtract, it hit me that the more we added to our budget, we were subtracting the likelihood that they would be able to stay in Hawai‘i and have a family of their own. Our state has to think and act like every other family must, balancing their checkbook and finding better ways to make things work.
This perspective is the compass that guides me, and as lieutenant governor gives me a sense of urgency about the issues and opportunities that must be addressed.
NAME THREE SPECIFIC PROJECTS YOU WOULD LIKE TO INITIATE AND WORK ON AS HAWAI‘I’S LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR.
• Workforce Development bridges education and business, creating strong relationships between our teaching professionals and business leaders. This establishes a strong foundation for preparing our youth and adults to enter the job market. Teachers benefit from having access to resources and guidance from our business community. The business community benefits by having graduates with skillsets in demand by their industries. We grow the Hawai‘i brand with a strong workforce that attracts business development and growth.
• I want to improve Hawai‘i’s Disaster Emergency Preparedness System. As mayor of Kaua‘i, I have hands-on leadership experience managing community response to natural disaster at all levels. I want Hawai‘i to be the nation’s shining example of implementing a whole community approach to emergency management, a Federal Emergency Management Agency program that focuses on members of the community as vital resources. This approach is essential because it presents a foundation for increasing individual preparedness and engaging with members of the community as collaborative resources to enhance resiliency and security.
• Education needs to be a top priority for our state with a focus on improving access to and quality of early childhood and postsecondary education. I’m a parent of three adult children, one of whom is a second-grade teacher, and I know the challenges within our education system. Let’s make preschool free, statewide. Let’s provide nontraditional learning opportunities for our high school students and graduates, such as certificate and apprenticeship programs. Most importantly, we need to ensure that Hawai‘i has top-notch teachers earning solid, competitive salaries.
• Solution to the homeless crisis with the institute I have begun to provide healthcare and respite for the homeless to save the state a large part of the $1.2 billion we spend without helping these suffering individuals.
• Address the opioid epidemic by launching our Ho‘ola approach statewide, decreasing abuse and excessive prescriptions leading to addiction, providing rehab for all who need it and support for any who seek it.
• Debt-free college for all in Hawai‘i and teacher retention bonuses for all who commit to teaching for two, five and 10 years.
KIM COCO IWAMOTO:
• First, we need to fully fund public education, from preschool through graduate school. If our state can find money for a $10 billion elevated rail system, we can raise the revenue to have a first-rate public education system, pay teachers a competitive professional salary and provide our students with facilities that align with the value you place on education.
• Second, we must reform our regressive tax system by removing the general excise tax from food, medications and medical supplies and replace that revenue by requiring corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Hawai‘i currently has the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation because corporations have been investing millions of dollars into electing state officials who will keep their taxes the lowest in the nation.
• Third, we must correct the affordable housing shortage that worsens our homelessness crises. Too many of our adult kids and grandkids are moving away from Hawai‘i because they cannot afford a home. We need to implement a moratorium on building permits for luxury residential developments until all needed affordable developments are built. Affordable developments have such a narrow profit margin; they cannot outbid luxury development for limited resources like land, labor and materials. We can reward luxury developers for helping to build affordable by issuing them credits they can remit to get first dibs on permits when the moratorium is lifted.
• I am running for lieutenant governor to improve our economy and create new private sector jobs by implementing good and sensible public policies. I support tax cuts and I oppose tax increases. Businesses will invest, expand and create more jobs when their tax burden is low.
• As lieutenant governor, I will advocate for improving and increasing economic development. I will work with the private sector and the Legislature to create a more vibrant economy. We must diversify our economy to improve our economy. We must cut regulations and cut taxes to encourage the creation of new businesses.
• The rail boondoggle is billions of dollars over budget. There should be a financial audit, but the Democrats are fighting that tooth and nail to hide their incompetence, waste and fraud. As lieutenant governor, I will fight for a real financial audit and not the shallow one the Democrats are trying to use to soothe and pacify the general public.
• Utilizing the Public School Lands Bill (Act 155) that I authored and passed in 2013, I would focus on better utilizing our state’s resources to address such issues as access to affordable housing, early learning opportunities and
With strong leadership, we can redevelop some of our school properties to create 21st century learning spaces, increase the number of affordable rentals statewide and, by offering first right of refusal to school personnel, can work at increasing teacher retention and recruitment by helping them not only with the cost of living, but in getting them to plant roots and raise families in our communities.
• I would immediately move to have the lieutenant governor serve in an ex-officio capacity to lead the Executive Office on Aging and the Executive Office on Early Learning. From focusing on essential programs like Kupuna Caregivers to increasing access to early learning opportunities statewide, these offices were established to demand the attention and action of multiple governmental agencies. To do this most effectively, you must have the active involvement of someone who can call on the cabinet and bring all stakeholders together to identify solutions and initiate changes.
• To better support our local farmers, I have and will continue to advocate for the expansion of the Farm-to-School pilot program to become a farm-to-state program, focusing on getting all of our public institutions, not just schools, to purchase locally grown products. This would create a year-round stable market to improve our economy and health while potentially also lower costs.
SHOULD THE PERSON ELECTED LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BE REQUIRED TO WORK OUT OF THE STATE CAPITOL OFFICE ON A DAILY BASIS? WHY OR WHY NOT?
BERNARD CARVALHO: Absolutely! The State Capitol is the people’s “house.” It is where the laws of our land are born and it is important that the lieutenant governor is present to participate in the daily business of the people. More importantly, it is important for people to know they have a one-stop location for accessing all their state elected officials and to have their voice heard.
In addition to being based in the State Capitol, the lieutenant governor also needs to get out from behind the desk and meet with the people where they live, work and play to keep in step with emerging issues, plan for needed resources, and strengthen community teams and relationships.
All my siblings live on O‘ahu (my younger sister and two younger brothers). When I attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa, I enjoyed living on O‘ahu. If elected lieutenant governor, my wife and I will live on O‘ahu.
JOSH GREEN: Yes. And, the lieutenant governor should also go into the trenches to help people, as I intend to as a volunteer physician for the homeless.
KIM COCO IWAMOTO: Yes, the LG should be required to work out of the State Capitol on a daily basis in the same way the citizens expect the governor to do. The State Capitol is the primary seat of state government and elected officials are sent there to do the people’s business. Hawai‘i taxpayers should not be required to pay for the construction of a special office on a neighbor island just to suit the whims of an LG who wants to live on that neighbor island. As I mentioned above, the staff of 13 deserve a present leader and the community members who will be collaborating on problem solving deserve a present convener. There are too many families struggling to survive and too many of our elderly, anxious about their shrinking savings as the costs of living skyrocket for a highly paid government official to be absent from their office for too long.
JEREMY LOW: No, the lieutenant governor should not be required to work out of the State Capitol office on a daily basis. The lieutenant governor should be out among the people of our state. The lieutenant governor should be in the field, involved in many projects and issues. The lieutenant governor should be visiting the outer islands often. Our Hawai‘i state government should not just focus on O‘ahu.
JILL TOKUDA: The lieutenant governor needs to go out to the people. If elected, I will continue to ensure that I am engaged with the communities on each island, working with them to address unique needs and opportunities by being in the community, together on the front lines from Hilo to Hanalei. As the Education Committee chair, I met with all 256 principals throughout the state, going out to them, listening and learning. As Ways and Means Committee chair, I held one-on-one meetings with nonprofit organizations applying for a grant in aid, holding sessions on the neighbor islands.
I believe we are most effective when we get out of the State Capitol and take government directly to the people.
WHAT DO YOU VIEW AS THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF YOUR PARTY’S CANDIDATES FOR GOVERNOR — AND HOW WOULD YOU STRENGTHEN THE TICKET FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION?
BERNARD CARVALHO: Both candidates for governor bring unique strengths to the office. The weakness is not with the candidates. The weakness lies in the office itself. The governor’s office is not an island unto itself and no one person, one governor, can tackle the immensity of state government without a capable partner to assist in running the business of the people in the most effective and efficient ways possible.
I strengthen the Democratic ticket for the general election because I am the only candidate with public service and executive leadership experience. My 10 years of experience leading county government provides me with a skillset that fully complements the needs of the governor’s office. I understand, in very practical terms, how to make government work.
I know what it is to bring together the federal, state and county governments to address emergency disaster needs as well as long-term affordable housing needs. In these areas and more, I have proven results in place.
I look forward to contributing my strengths to the Democratic Party’s ticket this election year for governor and lieutenant governor of the great state of Hawai‘i.
JOSH GREEN: I provide great balance to the Democratic ticket, and having a neighbor island physician to help those in need serve as the LG will finally make this position very worthwhile. I have extraordinary crossover capacity (almost always getting over 75 percent of the vote in a more conservative district).
KIM COCO IWAMOTO: They both have decades of elected leadership and deep ties to the party machine. Unfortunately, that also means they have both experienced a certain degree of institutionalization by the power and isolation of their offices. As a result, one may be perceived as too introverted and the other perceived as too abrupt. Both could benefit from an LG that has remained connected to the people, who has been working on the front lines of homelessness, building coalitions with environmental stewards, visiting all the schools and the communities they serve.
We need to ensure there is someone close to our governor who is courageous and tactful, who can let the emperor know that they are “not wearing any clothes” or that they are out of touch with the will of the people on a particular issue. Someone may need to remind them of their campaign promises or point out that the values embedded within an executive action are inconsistent with reasons why they were voted into office. I will advocate for the many residents who are worried that our children will continue to leave the state when they become adults because they can’t afford Hawai‘i’s high cost of living and housing costs.
We are on the verge of losing a generation due to those stifling factors. When it comes to a relationship with the governor, I look forward to working with them, or around them, but I will always prioritize the concerns of the people who call Hawai‘i “home.”
JEREMY LOW: I am officially neutral in the Republican gubernatorial primary election. I believe all three of our Republican candidates for governor are very capable of doing an excellent job as governor. The race for lieutenant governor is a separate election. Clearly, the focus and agenda for the offices are different. I will strengthen our Republican ticket in the general election by bringing different experiences and balance. You can find more information on how I will strengthen the Republican ticket by going to my Facebook page: Jeremy Low for Lt. Governor. Mahalo!
JILL TOKUDA: Either Governor Ige or Congresswoman Hanabusa will be an excellent governor. I have served with both in the state Senate. They are hardworking and very concerned about the health, safety and welfare of Hawai‘i residents, especially those of low and moderate incomes.
My life experience is the strength I bring to the ticket. Growing up in humble beginnings, I saw the sacrifices my parents made to give me and my brothers a better life. Now with a family of my own, working more than one job and all of us pulling together to make ends meet, I will go to work every day as lieutenant governor focused on making life better for our families and local businesses.