comscore 2022 Election: Jill N. Tokuda | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Jill N. Tokuda

  • Jill Tokuda
Name on ballot:

Jill N. Tokuda

Running for:

U.S. House – District II

Political party:

Democratic

Campaign website:

www.tokudaforhawaii.com

Current occupation:

Consultant; Co-Director of Cyber Hawaii; External Affairs Director for the Nisei Veterans Center

Age:

46

Previous job history:

State Senator; Small business owner

Previous elected office, if any:

Hawaii State Senate District 24 (2006-2018)

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

As a working mom, I understand first hand the struggles and concerns of working families. I’m running because all of our children & families deserve to feel safe and secure in our homes, in our schools, and in our communities, and I want Hawaii to be a place where they can see a future for themselves. A place where they have opportunities to thrive as they grow and eventually start families of their own.

I’ve been a small business owner & nonprofit executive working on all the islands. While in the State Senate representing Windward Oahu (2006-2018), I chaired the Ways and Means Committee, where I was responsible for balancing the state’s $14 billion budget and negotiating the final approval for fiscal measures at the Hawaii Legislature. I also chaired the Labor, Education, Higher Education, and Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs committees and served as Majority Whip.

During the pandemic I worked with the State to track billions in federal pandemic relief funds, making sure it got spent, and identifying where it was needed most. We need an advocate & a voice who understands the hopes & struggles of Hawaii families, and how to work to bring home our fair share of federal dollars to support our people and strengthen our communities.

What will be your top priority if elected?

Making sure Hawaii gets its fair share of federal funds to support our people and communities is a top priority for me. Especially in our rural and neighbor island communities, the need for funding to ensure access to the most basic things like healthcare, mental health services, housing, education, and workforce opportunities is great.

Anywhere from 17-25% of our State’s budget comes from the federal government. We receive billions in annual funding for things like healthcare, social services, education, and transportation. While receiving money is generally a good thing, it is only meaningful if it can be spent and directed to benefit those who need it the most. This does not always happen – for example, there was a recent report of $200 million intended to support school nutrition programs that Hawaii did not leverage. We need to take advantage of every opportunity available and make sure it is spent.

I would immediately work to establish a federal liaison office specifically to oversee and coordinate the receipt and maximization of federal funds allocated to Hawaii, including communicating with the state and counties, nonprofits, and businesses, to ensure funds are being spent, available monies are being applied for and drawn down, and providing application support. This office would be a watchdog to ensure that funds are getting to where they need to be, and also to help shepherd government agencies in ensuring that the funds are getting to where they are needed and do not lapse.

Inflation has battered the U.S. economy in nearly all sectors. What can Congress do to help bring prices down and to help Americans cope with the rising cost of living?

Our people are being priced out of this place we call home. Reducing the cost of living and keeping more money in people’s pockets must be everyone’s priority. In too many of our communities across the state, excessive inflation rates are forcing families to make impossible choices, like filling their gas tank to go to work and feeding their children or paying the rent. We need to find ways to provide immediate relief for working families.

I am a proponent of taking immediate action to suspend the federal gas tax, continuing the monthly child tax credits, and expanding SNAP benefits and the earned income tax credit so we can keep more money in families and workers pockets so they can provide for their most basic needs. We need to also restart and expand the Emergency Rent and Utility Relief Program to help keep people sheltered and the lights on, and provide mortgage and utility assistance to homeowners as costs continue to rise.

What is your position on the Jones Act, which supporters say protects the U.S. shipping industry but opponents say unnecessarily inflates shipping prices and the subsequent costs to Hawaii consumers?

I support the Jones Act and would not support its amendment or repeal. I believe it is a vital lifeline for Hawaii and the United States, ensuring Hawaii receives reliable shipping service, provides family wage jobs for thousands of Hawaii workers, and is an essential national security asset for our state.

At least 91 nations have similar cabotage laws, meaning that almost every country with a maritime presence has such a law to protect the stability of its shipping industry and for national security. For the United States, the Jones Act is vital to national security as it ensures ample U.S. sealift capacity to move supplies and our armed forces in times of conflict. It also ensures our nation maintains its ship building expertise to have a ready fleet to answer the call.

Hawaii’s scarcity of land means that we do not have large warehouses to store goods. Instead, Hawaii relies on cargo ships to serve as floating warehouses for goods that will be delivered directly to store shelves and consumers. The Jones Act ensures that Hawaii receives consistent and reliable ocean cargo service, which was especially critical during the pandemic when we needed life-saving goods and supplies.

What, if anything, should Congress do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

Passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act is critical to providing equal access to abortion care across the country. I support efforts to codify access to abortion care into federal law, fully fund Title X Family Planning Programs, and repeal the Hyde Amendment to ensure that every woman can be empowered to make a critical decision over their own health or wellbeing, regardless of their financial situation.

Now that Roe vs. Wade has been overturned, some advocates say other civil liberties previously upheld by the Supreme Court will be vulnerable, including same-sex marriage. Do you agree and what, if anything, should Congress do in response?

Given the composition in the Supreme Court, it breaks my heart to think of all of the civil liberties victories we’ve fought long and hard for that may be next. Similar to bold actions we’ve taken here in Hawaii, Congress needs to codify these basic human rights to ensure access and protection regardless of what state you live in. From same sex marriage, to access to contraception, to abortion–we’ve got to put in place the laws, funding, and programs and services necessary to guarantee equal protection and access under law. I support passing civil rights safeguards and protections like H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in a wide variety of critical areas such as housing, employment, and education.

What should Congress do to reduce gun violence and mass shootings in America?

I strongly support banning assault weapons and large capacity magazines. These deadly weapons have been behind terrible mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Parkland, and others, and most recently, Uvalde. Between 1994 and 2004 when a federal assault
weapons ban was in place, mass shootings were down compared to the decades before and after.

We must also mandate universal criminal background checks and close loopholes that allow guns to get into the wrong hands without proper vetting. Congress must act now to pass common-sense gun laws to put an end to mass shootings in our country.

The bipartisan framework in the Senate that would encourage states to establish red-flag laws and programs is a good start, but we must also have a national red-flag law to prevent guns from entering the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or their communities, and raise the minimum age to purchase any gun to 21. Congress should also create a federal database to track all gun sales and crack down on the growing threat of “ghost guns,” which cannot be tracked and pose a serious threat to public safety.

What is the best strategy to break through the political gridlock in Congress?

Senator Daniel Akaka often reminded us to “Live aloha and pass it on. It means nothing unless you share it.” In the face of intense political polarization that is dividing Congress and sometimes bringing it to a grinding halt, we need to go back to the way he approached people and situations, regardless of political affiliation: with compassion, treating all people with respect, and leading by example in acting with aloha.

If we are to bridge the divides that exist, we’ve got to first and foremost remember that it is about doing what is right and what is best for the people. Beyond partisan lines, we need to develop relationships and communicate across party lines to get things done for our constituents and the country. It is about the work we can do together in areas of mutual need and interest, like keeping our schools and communities safe from violence. And then it is the hard but necessary work of identifying the areas in which we can agree – focused on building trust, restoring civility, and developing common understanding across the aisle.

What specific policies should Congress enact that could help mitigate the affects of sea-level rise and climate change?

More aggressive action needs to be taken to address climate change impacts and increase renewable energy production. Hawaii is facing a crisis now whether it is our roads and homes falling into the ocean in rural communities, or extreme drought, torrential rains, and flooding. I support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal which would boost clean energy jobs, strengthen resilience, and advance environmental justice. Part of this initiative includes investing in physical infrastructure such as roads that can be washed away, and expanding access to clean drinking water.

Hawaii is a leader in renewable energy with our commitment to be off of fossil fuels by 2045. One of the most difficult sectors is transportation. The federal government can do more to incentivize the electrification of transportation, with additional support for charging stations, batteries, biofuel research for aviation to name a few. The Biden Administration has called on the Department of Defense to lead in the areas of renewable energy and a reduced carbon footprint, as well as in climate resiliency. This is an opportunity to partner at home.

There is no silver bullet. We need to take a multi-pronged approach to solving these issues. That said, we must be vigilant.

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

Thanks to the help of scholarships, student loans and work study programs, I was the first in my family to go to college. I attended the George Washington University in Washington DC majoring in International Relations and minoring in Japanese. I know first hand the challenges that exist for many pursuing higher education in hopes of a good career and a better life. When I was Ways and Means Chair, we established and funded the Hawaii Promise program providing free in-state tuition for qualified UH community college students. I have long been a supporter and champion of the Early College program in our public schools. Now we need to do more at the federal level to support access to free community college and workforce development programs for students of all ages.


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