Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 3 General Election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.

The following came from Michelle Tippens, Libertarian candidate for Congressional District 2, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The other candidates are Democrat Kai Kahele, Republican Joe Akana, Jonathan Hoomanawanui of the Aloha Aina Party, John Giuffre of the American Shopping Party and nonpartisan Ron Burrus.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the General Election Ballot.

Candidate for U.S. House District 2

Michelle Tippens
Party Libertarian
Age 42
Occupation Executive director
Residence Hilo


Community organizations/prior offices held

Hawaii Veterans Cannabis Alliance.

1. The entire country, including Hawaii, has been deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. What should national leaders be prioritizing to help keep the outbreak under control and repair economic damage done by measures taken to respond to the outbreak? What role can you play as just one of 435 members of the U.S. House to help Hawaii?

The most effective way to prevent the spread of a virus is to engage in the behaviors our parents taught us before elementary school. I believe ensuring people feel able to stay home when they are ill is important to make sure that people don’t spread illness. The bulk of responsibility for preventing the spread of illness falls on individuals; hand washing, covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing into tissues are not new concepts to any person over 5 years old. Government’s role in citizen’s lives does not include controlling individual behavior.

The government should have a notification system in place (online would be best, possibly an app) for citizens to consult for any medical trends and recommended measures that citizens can choose to take. I feel that if businesses choose to require masks to enter their establishments that they facilitate curbside assistance for those who choose not to wear a mask.

As “just one of 435 members of the U.S. House” I am able to help Hawaii in the same way every other “just one” member helps their state; through creating common sense laws that are easy to understand, advocating for laws that protect individual freedom, voting in support of bills that make sense and against bills that do not make sense. Every member of Congress has an equal ability to advocate change for their state.

I plan to address the Jones Act specifically to help Hawaii, as the restrictions placed by that act inflate the cost of living in Hawaii.

2. What would be your first priority if elected? How would that change if your party is in the majority? The minority?

My first priority if elected is to address the Jones Act. I would seek to either abolish, amend or gain exemption from the act for the state of Hawaii. I feel that this is the most important because I feel it is possible in a short time and it would have a large impact on Hawaii’s economy by reducing the cost of goods (up to 30%); pushing the cost of living down and making it possible to have a living wage in Hawaii without increasing the minimum wage and without working three jobs.

This priority will not change for me, regardless of which party is in majority.

3. Recent deaths of citizens at the hands of police are igniting protests and calls for reform across the country, primarily aimed at preventing discrimination against people of color. What should Congress do, if anything, to improve policing and police accountability?

I would like to begin by saying the police are an extension of the executive branch of government and it is therefore the executive branch’s responsibility to change the policies in place at their different levels.

However, I do believe that whether an individual is a police officer should not affect whether criminal behavior is prosecuted. Particularly in cases with video evidence, prosecutors should bring criminal charges against anyone assaulting another person. Employment as a police officer does not exempt an individual from the law and criminal charges should be brought against police officers in every instance because knowledge of the law is inherent to their job position.

In this respect, any time a police officer breaks the law, they have done so fully aware that their behavior is illegal. This is why officers should be held to a higher expectation of behavior and accountability.

4. Whatever happens in the general election, Congress and the country will likely remain deeply divided. What specifically would you do to help bridge the partisan divide in Washington?

As a Libertarian, my position on many issues sits along a balanced midline that seeks to protect and encourage our individual freedoms while encouraging the natural growth of our economy through minimal government intrusion. I feel that because the policies I am interested in enacting would be appealing to both the “other” parties for different reasons.

I believe the Republicans will support measures introduced by me because they will be financially responsible and the Democrats will support the measures because they will defend and guarantee social independence. I believe that we can fix what is broken by working together.

5. What is your view of the role of the U.S. military in the islands, and would you like to see that role increased or decreased? 

As I have stated before, I support a strong defensive force in regard to the U.S. military. Unfortunately the military does not train for that objective. I would like to see the military shifted to a strong defensive force that maintains an agreed upon number of soldiers in Hawaii.

In regard to the number of military service members in Hawaii, I would like to see the overall number of U.S. military soldiers in Hawaii reduced. The Hawaii National Guard is under the authority of the state, so my comments do not relate to the National Guard.

6. Congress has struggled in recent years to reach agreement on budget deficits, the national debt and spending in general. What would be your approach to fiscal matters?

I feel that there are far too many programs run by the government and that many of them need to be restructured into more streamlined processes that cost less money and are more efficient. By getting rid of programs that do not work and using those funds for programs that do, we should be able to spend less and get the same amount of benefit.

One of the most important things I bring with me to office is my commitment to get the budget under control. In the military we had a practice of “spending the budget,” meaning at the end of the fiscal year, we were encouraged to be wasteful to ensure all the budgeted funds were spent. The idea is that doing so shows that the same amount of funds are needed next year. Our government needs to develop a way to reverse that thinking and provide incentive for departments to save money as opposed to wasting it.

7. Under what circumstances should America go to war?

A:  The United States should not go to war. Ever. I think it is appropriate to defend our country if a different society brings war to us, but the United States should not take aggressive action. It is not appropriate for the United States to appoint us to be the “World Police”; we haven’t got our internal police force under control. Our governors are too busy restricting the movement of U.S. citizens to address the policing issue.

I believe it is vital that our government finally start minding our own issues and stop sending our neighbors and family members to other countries to force-feed their people our beliefs. Neither the Native Americans nor the Hawaiian people gained any benefit and it is time we stopped making our military shove the U.S. agenda into everyone else’s lives.

8. What should the United States do to control carbon emissions and slow climate change?

I believe that the first step to addressing climate change is to stop causing damage. That starts at home, however the government can commit to strategies that will reduce pollution, such as recycling goods used and utilizing sustainable sources of energy.

I would commit to reducing office waste from day one and would work to expand that policy throughout the government. The next thing I would do is work to change over government offices to solar power sources. I would prefer to see that done through rooftop solar on all government buildings. Excess solar power can be sold back to the “grid” and proceeds used to offset the federal deficit.

Above all, I would like to look to the charity sector for innovation to address our society’s impact on climate change and adjust the way our government conducts daily activities to reduce its impact.

9. Is it time to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? How?

These programs have failed. At this point, the entire system needs to be phased out and a strategy of voluntary investment for retirement designed. I do not believe the U.S. government should administer the project because money in the government has a way of wandering into other programs.

Regarding Medicare and Medicaid, I also believe these systems are broken. I believe that patients would be better served if doctors were given business incentives for seeing a certain number of people without charge each month. I also believe helping people understand healthy eating and lifestyle from a young age will reduce the need for these programs to be so large and expensive.

10. What should be done to reform U. S. immigration policies, if anything?

The U.S. has not shown a history of objectivity in immigration policies and I feel that we may need to rebuild the U.S. immigration system to reduce costs and subjective variance in enforcement.

11. What specific reforms, if any, would you seek in gun control policies?

I support the 2nd Amendment and believe that now more than ever the 2nd Amendment is vital to ensure that our government doesn’t cascade into tyranny. The 2nd Amendment protects the right of U.S. citizens to fight off government oppression through the assembly of armed militias.

I believe that the idea of an armed militia has managed to become a scary one and I would like to say that this is simply not true. The first specific reform I would like to address in gun control policy would be one to ensure the protection of the 2nd Amendment rights of cannabis patients, as some states (including Hawaii) have taken measures to interfere with those rights.

12. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

I would first like to eliminate the restrictions placed upon shipping to Hawaii by the Jones Act. This would reduce the cost of living in Hawaii and allow everyone to get more with what they already have.

I would like to reduce our dependence on mainland products and plastics so that we can preserve this delicate environmental balance we all enjoy. I would like to see an expansion of federal preservation areas in the ocean and prosecution of companies that pollute or harm our distressed reef system.

I would like to build a Hawaii that her people can afford, a Hawaii that tourists can enjoy with respect, a Hawaii that will be protected by responsible business practices. Above all, I would like to see Hawaii with its aloha back.

13. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

I have nothing additional to discuss currently. Mahalo nui for your time and interest.