Name on ballot:
State House – District 39
Previous job history:
I am a former President of the Hawai’i State Teachers Association. I have been a public school teacher for over 20 years.
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
From 2015 to 2021, I was the President of the Hawai’i State Teachers Association. I have been a high school social studies teacher for over 20 years. I currently teach at Campbell High. I am a passionate advocate for working families and have a history of success in legislative affairs. As President of HSTA,, I led the movement to provide air conditioning to Hawaiʻi’s overheated classrooms, helping to secure $100 million for air conditioning and $46 million for energy efficiency for our children’s learning environments.
Additionally, I fought to ensure that all children have access to qualified teachers by raising teacher pay for those who guide the learning of children with special needs, Hawaiian immersion teachers, and teachers who work in hard to staff areas. These pay differentials were the highest in the nation and helped to dramatically increase the number of teachers working in these critical fields.
I have also championed issues beyond education, like paid family leave program, raising the minimum wage, and anti-discrimination laws for minority students and employees. I have a proven track record of building coalitions to achieve major policy goals and working with others to advance the public interest. If elected, I am committed to finding common ground with my colleagues to deliver prosperity for the people of our island home.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
Traffic is a quality-of-life issue. For too many people, the daily commute has become a source of frustration, taking time away from our loved ones. I support expanding zipper lane access during rush hour commutes. To advance Hawai’i’s clean transportation goals, we should build more charging stations for electric vehicles and require all new developments to reserve a higher percentage of parking stalls for EVs. We must also invest in new technologies, including traffic lights that employ artificial intelligence, driverless cars, and the regulatory infrastructure for electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (EVTOLs).
Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?
I support increasing the minimum wage to a living wage, passing paid family and sick leave, and establishing tax credits for childcare. Legislators should also take action to resolve our affordable housing crisis by incentivizing the counties to increase taxes on vacant homes and investment properties. On Maui, property investors and second-home owners own over 60 percent of condominiums and apartments, while 52 percent of homes are sold to nonresidents.
I am encouraged by projects like Hale Kalele on Piikoi St., where units range from $542 per month for a studio to $1,480 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. These kinds of affordable housing projects can serve as a model for our state. Lawmakers must also fulfill their promise to Native Hawaiians by fully funding Hawaiian Homeland initiatives. Finally, we should urge our congressional delegation to seek funding for more on-base military housing, so that military families do not deplete the housing supply available in local communities.
Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?
Hawai’i must move away from burning fossil fuels to achieve 100 percent renewable energy reliance. Burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change, while propping up dictatorships like Russia. Instead of resorting to quick fixes, we should advance long-term solutions that will accelerate our transition to a clean economy, such as strengthening incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles and expanding the number of charging stations available in public places.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support limiting tourists to Hawai’i’s natural resource attractions, while at the same time ensuring that these spaces remain accessible to local residents. Hanauma Bay has become almost inaccessible to residents outside of limited hours. Hawai’i has also seen hotels limiting access to public beaches. We must preserve our precious resources from being harmed by tourist overuse, while protecting the ability of residents
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Singapore, an island nation with limited resources, knew that in order to improve their economy, the best investment that it could make was to educate its people. Hawai’i should do the same. I support universal preschool, fully funding our public education system, and joining the eight other states who have made college tuition-free. When we invest in the education of our people, they will create a more prosperous and sustainable future for Hawai’i.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
As I indicated previously, legislators should incentivize the counties to increase taxes on vacant homes and investment properties, fully fund Hawaiian Homeland programs, and urge our congressional delegation to seek funding for more on-base military housing for service members. With regard to homelessness, the research is clear: Housing First is a program that works.
Housing First is based on the principle that once a homeless individual obtains shelter, they can more easily receive the social services that keep them off the streets. Our first priority should be to provide shelter for the approximately 2,000 unsheltered homeless persons living in Hawai’i. In 2008, UH built Frear Hall, which houses 810 students. Establishing the dorm cost approximately $71 million.
Hawai’i should invest in private dorm spaces like this for homeless people across the state. In the long term, this would save the state money, especially in health care costs. We should also increase funding for transitional housing for children exiting foster care and for people who are released from prison.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
The answer to protecting Hawai’i’s residents during the pandemic is to encourage people to get vaccinated. With children under 5 now able to get vaccinated, we need to encourage families to immunize their keiki. I also believe that we need stricter oversight of the over $500 million that the Hawai’i Department of Education received from the federal government to deal with the economic downturn. I support using this funding to create community schools, which provide students with wraparound services, and expand career and technical education programs.
Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?
I reject the premise of this question. The $2 billion surplus allowed the State Legislature to address lingering problems, including funding Native Hawaiian homesteads, raising teacher pay, and building affordable housing. Yet, Hawai’i struggles to address systemic problems in other years because our tax rate is unfair to working families, with the bottom 20 percent of income earners paying an effective tax rate of 15 percent. That is 66 percent higher than the rate that is paid by the top 1 percent of income earners in the islands, whose effective tax rate is 8.9 percent.
I support raising the general excise tax (GET) on the wealthy and using the revenue generated to eliminate the GET on food and drugs. I would also work with the counties to increase taxes on investment properties and vacant homes. My top spending priorities are: creating universal preschool, fully funding Hawaii’s public school system, making college free for all, and ending chronic homelessness.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
I fully support a woman’s right to choose. I am heartbroken that the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer. With some Republican states moving to arrest women who travel to obtain abortion in other places, Hawai’i must become a sanctuary state for abortion services, as California and Maryland are doing. This would protect abortion providers in Hawai’i from civil liability judgments for providing reproductive health care when the claims are based on laws in states that are hostile to abortion rights.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Hawai’i spends less on education than any other state, when total tax dollars are considered. Our state’s teacher shortage has climbed to roughly 1,000 positions annually because of low teacher pay and bloated class sizes. Our students are mired in standardized tests, rather than real-life learning.
As a long-time teacher, I am committed to strengthening our education system. I will champion legislation to increase funding for public schools, raise teacher pay, and lower class sizes, I will also support efforts to repair deteriorating facilities and replace standardized testing with authentic assessments that align with real-world problem-solving.
I will sponsor proposals to give additional resources to special education classes, so that our most vulnerable keiki have the tools they need to succeed. And I will advocate for measures that will provide a free college education to all, placing a higher education within everyone’s grasp.
Additionally, there are many good-paying, high-demand jobs that do not require a 4-year college degree. Unfortunately, our schools are not designed to help interested students obtain these jobs. Instead, our school system has a “college or bust” mentality. I will advocate for Hawai’i to follow the Massachusetts model of vocational education by allowing high school students to take up to 50 percent of their credits in career and technical education (CTE).
In order to allow this transition to occur, we will need approximately 500 new CTE teachers. I am proposing that we achieve this by offering sabbaticals to current teachers who want to become qualified to teach CTE courses, give them a year’s salary as they become qualified to teach CTE, and then hire them as CTE specialists once they have completed their programs. We should also allow schools to create an inclusion model for CTE programs, in which a CTE specialist and education specialist co-teach vocational education courses to maximize their industrial and academic benefit.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
Hawai’i must pass laws that eliminate the influence of corporate money in our elections and political decision-making. This can be achieved by fully funding public elections, as Maine has done, thereby ending the overwhelming electoral advantage held by candidates who seek corporate campaign contributions. Additionally, we should create an independent ombudsman position within the Hawai’i State Ethics Commission to determine if legislators have conflicts of interest when introducing or voting on bills. If a conflict is found to exist, then legislators should recuse themselves from taking action on those proposals.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
I empathize with the concerns of Native Hawaiians, who view Mauna Kea as sacred and who are angered by the poor management and desecration of the mauna. Furthermore, Mauna Kea has become a focal point for the ongoing marginalization of the Native Hawaiian community, who have seen their rights and voices diminished within their homeland.
I also see the Thirty Meter Telescope as a benefit for all of humanity, for whom new discoveries will help us to understand our place in the universe. Mauna Kea is unique in its geographic capacity to support astronomical exploration. I support HB 2024, passed this year, which transfers management of Mauna Kea from the University of Hawai’i to a stewardship and oversight board. It is imperative that this board includes the voices of Native Hawaiians, especially the cultural practitioners who have protected the mauna for generations.
Representatives have a responsibility to listen to the community, so that they can learn more about different perspectives and find clarity about opposing viewpoints. This is why legislators hold public hearings. I believe that if politicians spend more time listening to Native Hawaiians and other stakeholders about Mauna Kea, then we can find solutions to this issue that respect the public trust and advance the interests of all who are impacted by the presence of astronomical activities on these lands.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I was born and raised in Hawai’i, and am a proud graduate of Kaiser High School (Class of ‘91). My daughter is an undergraduate at UH-Mānoa and my wife is a philosophy professor at the University of Hawai’i-West O’ahu. My mom was a special education teacher at Wilson Elementary and Princess Ka’iulani Elementary. My dad was a professor of Social Work at UH Mānoa and in 1986 founded Adult Friends for Youth, a nonprofit agency devoted to helping troubled children in underserved communities stay in school and have a better life. Learning from my parents, I became a teacher and an advocate for social justice.
That is why I am running for the Hawai’i State House. I will fight to fully fund public education, combat climate change, and pass policies that help working families, like a living wage and paid sick and family leave. I am dedicated to building truly affordable housing and expanding access to programs that lift the homeless out of poverty. I will work to establish universal preschool and free college, so that everyone has a chance to achieve their highest aspirations for themselves and their families.
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