comscore 2020 Election: Doni Chong | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Doni Chong

  • Doni Chong
Name on ballot:

Doni Chong

Running for:

State House – District 51

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Former STEAM Grant Manager



Previous job history:

Program Evaluation & Planning at Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate; Customer Solutions Analyst and Executive Customer Care Escalation Administrator at Hawaiian Electric Company; STEAM Grant Manager at Keiki O Ka ʻĀina Learning Center; Termed Assignments at The Queenʻs Health, The Queenʻs Medical and ʻAha Pūnana Leo Immersion School.

Previous elected office, if any:

No answer submitted

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

Iʻve invested 30 years of working in Hawaiʻi for Hawaii. My extensive work background has focused on the well being of our state in the areas of energy utility awareness, education, health, and cultural wellness. My family has been in Hawaiʻi since 1889 and started helping their community in 1893 when my great, great grandparents Kihachi and Shika Kashiwabara founded the Moilili Japanese Language School. My great grandfather was the first Japanese Police Captain who served from 1914 to 1934. He spoke fluent Japanese and Hawaiian Language. I am proud of my mixed ethnic-cultural background which includes being part Native Hawaiian.

I know how to balance both business economic restoration and health safeguards. I have a proven record of working with the public and private sector for 30 years and have established a network of professional relationships with many key leaders in our state. I believe legislators make the laws, attorneys interpret the laws, and the greater community experiences the impacts of those laws, positive and/or negative. Given the state of our economy, I believe we need a balanced voice to represent economic restorative business operations alongside sound medical safeguards. Simply, being an expert in one field will not work during this time. What will work is having a collaborative reach to work with all types of segments and sectors to help restore our state. Our economy is suffering and we need a sound voice to help find realistic economic solutions.

I understand the people and culture of Hawai`i. I have the kind of aloha spirit that transcends indifference and encourages everyone to work together, not apart.

What will be your top priority if elected?

Balancing economic restoration alongside medical safeguards. Opening the economy safely in stages, tracking of infection and recovery cases, and adequate monitoring in place. Using models of success with countries that have shown a practical way to reopen. Keeping clear restrictions on social distancing measures alongside consistent coronavirus testing. Identifying two key groups: (1) the highest compromised group according to the rate of infection and providing an organized approach to shield them from further exposure; (2) the lowest compromised group according to the rate of infection and allowing basic economic operations to churn revenue at a micro-level.

Stabilizing the budget while increasing new revenue into the system and make full use of the stateʻs rainy day and hurricane relief funds. Review all expenses, reduce state spending and liabilities. Keep critical key social service programs that assist at-risk populations intact.

As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?

Maintaining social distancing guidelines and a phased reopening approach. Awareness and intentional safeguarding. When the economy opens testing of travelers at the point of departure, not at the point at arrival since the RT-PCR test can identify between 75 to 85 percent of active infections which supports a successful pre-departure testing policy. Further recommendations would include a COVID-19 clearance card, similar to a TB test card which confirms a traveler’s negative result. Implementing a COVID-19 safety placard that identifies which business operations are consistently maintaining industry standards for medical safety and sanitization. Offering some form of peace of mind to patrons, customers, and most importantly employees.

What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Residents have to learn how to manage a budget, live on less, and make necessary sacrifices until the economy is somewhat stable. Payment extensions will only go so far and will not suffice long term. While the intention of the CARES funding was helpful it, unfortunately, allowed for an unrealistic benefit payment. The funding will run out at the end of July and people will be in great despair. I believe more financial counseling services and mental health coping services will be needed to offset the hopelessness people will feel. Hawaiʻi is known for having a bonding spirit and I believe our residents will continue to showcase the goodness of the aloha spirit and help those in need.

Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the state deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?

A review of all expenses should be conducted and reducing state spending and liabilities should be considered. Pay cuts should start at the top of the list, with the highest earners taking the largest percentage of a salary cut. Frontline responders including teachers’ salary should stay intact. Other helpful aids, which may have occurred this session, would be the elimination of CIP and Grant In Aid funding for 2020 and prioritization for 2021 based on the most essential services. Redirection of more of the transient accommodation tax (TAT) receipts to the General Fund or new revenue initiatives such as a 1% COVID-19 surcharge recovery fee assessed alongside the TAT to visitors who stay less than 180 days.

Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy has suffered greatly due to the pandemic. If elected, what would you propose to support and diversify the state’s economy?

Focusing on being the most environmentally, economically, and technologically sound in the areas of culturally centric education and renewable energy. Keeping our military presence intact since it is one of the major economic anchors of our state with consideration of military technology academies and direct air capture (DAC) renewable applications. Forward-thinking education as a means to diversify the economy and foster inclusive growth through promoting Hawaiian Cultural STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) knowledge along with vocational and entrepreneurial skills. In the business arena advocating cultural centric research-based innovation incentive programs which allow companies to apply for grants as long as a value is created not only for the company but for society too. Similarly, research and development tax credit incentives to encourage spending. Media, HighTech Agriculture, and TeleMedicine Research and Development as possible alternatives. Understanding there is a definite difference between food security vs. food sustainability and putting our investments in food sustainability initiatives with a realistic ROI.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

Law enforcement should be respected and honored. The representation of authority in society is necessary to maintain order. The act of an officer acting in error should not be the measuring stick to judge all officers. Similarly, when 911 occurred our nationʻs leaders asked us not to judge the wrongdoing of one foreign national (Osama Bin Laden) and judge all foreigners (Muslims). Likewise, the wrongful act of one individual should not be projected on an entire group. I agree that stricter standards of behavior and conduct are essential to different job classes. That said, however, it would be prudent if we were consistent in how we measured wrongdoing and judged all people fairly, not just when it benefits a particular platform and allows civil disobedience and unrest.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

I support the correction of the failed agreements which should be rectified between the parties involved before any further construction takes place. The TMT issue is the trigger, not the root problem, which prompted the current outpouring of frustration. The TMT, if handled properly, could have assisted with the advancement of research and development, however, in its current state lacks authenticity, collaboration, and inclusion. As such it has resulted in a strong unified opposition movement that needs repair before it can proceed.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I am a fermentation and microbe specialist who was the first Native Hawaiian woman to handcraft paʻiʻai yogurt using Big Island Hamakua cow milk. I sold my products as a healthy locally crafted food at HMSA and Kaiser. My desire to help Hawaiʻi expand on sustainability started in 2013 when I researched on the expansion of our local dairy industry. Back then I had early conversations on possibilities of using cow milk from Kauaʻi and Pierre Omidiyarʻs Ulupono Initiative. I also supported and helped initiatives that allowed formerly incarcerated women to re-enter into the workforce through back-to-work programs and offered motivational mentoring to give them encouragement.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2020 Hawaii elections coverage.
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