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2020 Election: Mike Gabbard

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Name on ballot:

Mike Gabbard

Running for:

State Senate – District 20

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Full-time Legislator



Previous job history:

Faga‘itua High School, American Samoa—taught English and Language Arts to sophomores and juniors (1/71 to 6/72)
Samoana High School, American Samoa— Program director/instructor in Pilot Project with 60 “at-risk” seniors (8/72 to 6/73)
American Samoa Community College, (ASCC)— Psychology and English teacher (8/73 to 6/74)
American Samoa Community College, Guidance Counselor (8/74 to 9/76)
American Samoa Community College, Assistant Dean of Instruction (9/76 to 8/77)
American Samoa Community College, Dean of Adult and Continuing Education, State Director of Adult Basic Education (6/80 to 6/83)
Owned and operated Mike’s Sport Shop, American Samoa (1974 to 1978)
Ponomauloa School, Wahiawa— Headmaster/teacher (7/83 to 6/87)
Owned and operated The Natural Deli, a vegetarian restaurant, Honolulu (1988 to 1992)
Own and operate Talofa Services LLC, a real estate investment company (2013 to present)
Owned and operated a small confection manufacturing and distribution company, Hawaiian Toffee Treasures (1998 to 2017)
Owned Infotech Communications, LLC (June 2002 to April 2004)
Substitute Teacher, Hawai‘i Department of Education (2005)

Previous elected office, if any:

State Senate – 2006 – Present
Honolulu City Council – 2003 – 2005

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

To me, being an elected official is not about power and prestige. It’s about helping people. I’m committed to continue serving the residents of West O‘ahu as I’ve been doing since 2002…first in the Honolulu City Council, and now in the State Senate. We’ve made some progress with the development of UH West O‘ahu, new schools, the Kapolei Court Complex, Kualaka`i Parkway, and Kapolei Interchange Complex. However, we still have more work to do and I would be honored to be elected once again in 2020. I have many years of experience representing West O’ahu residents in the State Senate. I’m their voice in the Legislature, and I take that responsibility very seriously. A large part of politics is relationships. I have excellent relationships with my colleagues in our Congressional Delegation, Legislature, Governor, Mayor, state and county department heads and staffers.

What will be your top priority if elected?

I’m committed to doing all I can as the Chair of the Agriculture and Environment Committee to expand our agricultural sector and increase food self-sufficiency in our islands. This legislative session we were finally able to pass HB 1819, which will allow our farmers to apply for licenses with the USDA to grow, process, and sell industrial hemp products. (Gov. Cayetano declared Dec.14, 1999 Hawai‘i Industrial Hemp Day. Then, hempwise, government fell asleep, as it tends to do sometimes. From 2014-2018 I introduced 4 bills that became law, which included a UH hemp research study and setting up a pilot hemp research program.) Hemp is an amazing crop that can create over 25,000 incredible products. The key is developing a cottage industry with Hawai‘i branding that will set us apart from global competition. I’m hopeful hemp will help stimulate our economy and create opportunities amid our COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Hemp, hemp, hooray!

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

We must do our best to balance the spread of COVID-19 in our community and at the same time allow people to live as normal a life as possible so that they can work, educate their children, and get recreation. Our main line of defense will continue to be our airports and developing a solid protocol of testing, screening, and tracing to prevent large numbers of infected people from entering our state.

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

Our state unemployment rate has fortunately gone down from 22% to 13% over the last few months. This is obviously very good news for our economy. At the same time, our tourism industry remains virtually shuttered until at least September 1. We need to focus efforts on diversifying our economy and taking advantage of opportunities in the agricultural sector, such as hemp. The passage of the HEROES Act in Congress is key to ensuring that we have the necessary federal stimulus to help those who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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?

I’m opposed to furloughing or laying off large numbers of state workers to help with our $2.3 billion budget shortfall. Cutting essential state services will do even more damage to our economy, leave thousands more out of work, and will negatively impact the health and safety of our entire state.

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?

In the short-term, I support the creation of a Civilian Conservation Corps program as put forward by Kupu and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. A CCC could immediately create 1,000 jobs across the state. Crew members would complete critical infrastructure projects like fence construction, trail building and restoration, and cabin and comfort station renovations. Additionally, job corps members could plant trees, remove invasive pests, clear firebreaks, maintain parks and conduct research. I’m hopeful that future federal stimulus monies, related to the COVID-19 crisis, can go to this excellent proposal. In the long term, HEMP, HEMP, HOORAY!

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

Passing police misconduct legislation like we did in June with SB 285 is a key police reform effort. This bill will require county police departments to disclose to the Legislature the identity of an officer upon his/her suspension or discharge. I also support the reform of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to confiscate personal property without the need for a criminal conviction. In addition, it’s important to remember that all the police accountability legislation we pass into law will change very little, unless we provide the resources, training, and adequate tools to prepare officers for the difficult decisions they face daily in a complex, rapidly evolving environment.

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

Simply put, the TMT team went through all the governmental requirements to get this project approved. While I support the construction of the project, I also agree with TMT opponents who argue our state needs to do a much better job in respecting and preserving the cultural and environmental legacy of Mauna Kea.

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

From 2009 to 2015, I was the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee and had an important role in Hawai`i becoming the first state in the nation to set a target of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2045. In 2016, I was Chair of the Water, Land, and Agriculture Committee, where I authored a law that bans the sale of any part or product of endangered species, such as elephant ivory. In 2018, I authored and helped pass legislation to impose a first-in-the-world statewide ban on sunscreens containing the controversial chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. Also, in 2018, I advocated for a law banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos; when it was signed, Hawai`i became the first state in the nation to enact a chlorpyrifos ban. I mention these accomplishments, not to toot my own horn, but to give examples of what can be done when we work together—the “kakou thing”. I always involve stakeholders, community members, colleagues, government agencies, etc. in my conversations about passing good laws which help not only Senate District 20, but the entire state. I love my job. I love helping others.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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