Ray L’Heureux wasn’t planning on running for governor. He started campaigning later than his Republican primary opponents, state Rep. Andria Tupola and John Carroll.

But it seemed to him that they represented variations on Hawaii’s status quo, he said Thursday evening during the first in a series of Civil Beat “Know Your Candidates” events at Hawaii Pacific University’s Aloha Tower Marketplace Campus. Several additional gubernatorial candidates will sit down for in-depth question-and-answer sessions, the next being Carroll on Tuesday at 6 p.m.  

L’Heureux told the audience watching in person and on Civil Beat’s livestream that while he wasn’t a fan of his Republican opponents, he doesn’t believe that Hawaii needs more Democratic leaders.

Republican Ray L’Heureux says education is his top priority. Bianca Smallwood/Civil Beat

“Six decades of Democratic rule really hasn’t done us all that well,” said L’Heureux, sporting an aloha shirt with elephants.

L’Heureux, 56, said he’s a firm believer in smaller government, strong defense and family values.

He envisions a Hawaii where students can graduate high school or college and have the opportunity to hold a good job in the tech sector. He wants to see a stronger, more vibrant economy that’s not afflicted by brain drain.

L’Heureux previously served as an assistant school superintendent and Marine lieutenant colonel. He still has a lot to say about education — it’s the top priority listed on his campaign web site.

He’s a big proponent of school empowerment — giving teachers and principals the autonomy to make their own decisions in the classroom. He said he worries about inequities in the school system and sympathizes with teachers weary of short-lived reform initiatives.

A one-size-fits-all schools model doesn’t actually fit anyone, he said.

“I would say that there are high-performing schools in this district, there are great teachers, great principals … but the system is failing our kids,” he said.

Still, he said he opposed the proposed constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November asking voters whether they want to raise taxes on investment properties worth at least $1 million to fund public schools.

If approved, the property tax increase would be passed on to renters, L’Heureux said.

“We are the most taxed electorate in the nation and what are we getting for it?” he said.

The Race For Governor

L’Heureux also spoke about a need to diversify the economy, incentivize businesses and build a bigger tech sector in Hawaii.

Among the other topics he addressed:

• Homelessness: The situation doesn’t seem to be getting much better despite an overall lower count of the population earlier this year, he said. It’s important to pair other services with housing to help people actually escape from homelessness, L’Heureux said.

“We can’t just put roofs over their head and call it a day,” he said.

• Climate change: He said there definitely seem to be some adverse environmental impacts that are man-made, but added that the “planet has a natural disposition to change.”

• The Jones Act: L’Heureau denounced the federal law that requires U.S. goods to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The law is often cited as a big contributor to Hawaii’s high cost of living.

The law is outdated, L’Heureux said, and many of its provisions need to be repealed or relaxed.

“Today in 2018, it makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

• The Thirty Meter Telescope: Build the controversial project atop Mauna Kea as quickly as possible, he said, adding the state has bungled some management responsibilities on the Big Island mountain and could have been more culturally sensitive.

• Donald Trump: Asked about his opinion of President Trump, L’Heureux said the North Korea summit was an indication of his peacemaking abilities.

L’Heureux has raised $620 and loaned himself $2,800 this year, campaign finance reports show. He’s spent $2,800.

His opponents have raised more. Tupola has spent $260,000 and raised $264,000 since she was re-elected to the Legislature in 2016. Carroll has spent $40,000 and raised $43,000 since July 2017.

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