Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 Primary 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 Richard Kim, Democratic candidate for governor. The other Democratic candidates include Duke Bourgoin, Vicky Cayetano, Josh Green, Kai Kahele, Clyde Lewman and Van Tanabe.

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

Candidate for Governor

Richard Kim
Party Democratic
Age 61
Occupation Dentist
Residence Mililani


Community organizations/prior offices held

None provided.

1. What is the biggest issue facing Hawaii, and what would you do about it?

The health and the economy. Covid-19 management was an utter failure, especially since the Delta invasion. Officials allowed the Delta variant to infect us, causing four to five months of surge and resulting in hundreds of unnecessary deaths and tens of thousands avoidable infections. Sadly, media have been silent and rather in cahoots. Now we are also having another surge of Omicron, as a result of abandonment of responsibility.

We need to improve our emotional health, knowing true priorities, especially during this pandemic. All Hawaii should reform, but professionals first. But, media first, since their role is so crucial and important in our society.

Just like the Great Depression several years after Spanish flu, we may likely face stagflation and economic downturn. We need to quickly boost our economy, but diversify in self-sustainable levels, e.g., grow our own foods, make our own goods, improve infrastructure and boost transportation like bringing back ferries.

Boost transportation and we boost the economy!

2. Many people have talked about diversifying the local economy for many years now, and yet Hawaii is still heavily reliant on tourism. What, if anything, should be done differently about tourism and the economy?

We are facing stagflation in dealing with the pandemic economy.

I would try to increase our revenue to self-sustainable levels, while trying to diversify the economy. In that, tourism may need to still be the main source of our income, at least until we achieve a self-sustainable, diversified and independent economy. For now, I would try to maintain current ways of tourism (if we can).

But if more quick revenue growth is needed, I may bring Las Vegas casino hotels to the islands, but not in Waikiki.

3. The Legislature this session approved spending $600 million for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands plus another $300 million for other housing programs. What specifically would you try to do to create more housing for middle- and low-income residents?

First, we need to diversify and boost our economy to self-sustainable levels, so we can generate much more money. I would not agree with the Legislature’s decision because it does not fairly distribute the money to all middle- and lower-income residents. We want to save such money until we can afford to build affordable housing for as many people as possible.

We may also want to transfer all ceded lands so that we could build more free and low-cost housing for as many people as possible (and the priorities should be given to beneficiaries).

4. An estimated 60% of Hawaii residents are struggling to get by, a problem that reaches far beyond low income and into the middle class, which is disappearing. What ideas do you have to help the middle class and working families who are finding it hard to continue to live here?

We need to boost our self-sustainable and diversified economy to provide the middle class and working families many more and/or better opportunities.

In that, first, we need to boost our transportation, e.g., bring ferries back, build and/or connect many roads (like H4, H5 freeways and connect Kaena Point), to reduce the costs collectively from being stuck on the roads.

We also need to grow our own foods, make our own goods, find ways to reduce cost of living, e.g., alternatives to the Jones Act. We may want to create another U.S. port near our islands, so we reduce shipping costs from Western Pacific regions.

Also, we need to reduce cost of living and help the environment by seeking alternative energy like nuclear power.

In order to help control or reduce the ever-increasing price of housing, we also want to implement an “Aloha Score” (in addition to credit score), so nonresidents won’t be easily buying Hawaii properties. (We need to find ways to make such implementation legal and constitutional, though.)

5. The pandemic was particularly difficult for Hawaii’s public schools. Should there be a change in the way schools are administered? Would you support more local control including breaking the single school district into subregions?

The issue may not be dividing school districts, but the elected officials’ mismanagement, especially on Covid-19.

Perhaps, I may need to look more into school administrations, if such subregions are more beneficial, by weighing and considering benefits, risks and other options (if and when I get elected).

6. Hawaii has recently experienced a number of prominent corruption scandals, prompting the state House of Representatives to appoint a commission tasked with improving government transparency through ethics and lobbying reforms. What will you do to ensure accountability at the Legislature? Are you open to ideas such as requiring the Sunshine Law and open records laws to apply to the Legislature?

We must hate corruption but not the people. Although they may be punished accordingly, we may want to understand more why. I believe corruption might have rather happened due to systemic problems, including lack of compensation and part-time status of legislators.

We may need to find ways for legislators not to get involved in corruption, e.g., by providing enough compensation with full-time status. It would likely make them fully engaged in their roles as legislators.

As for making the Sunshine Law and open records laws apply to the Legislature, of course, I would love to support such transparency in all government.

7. Recently a house on the North Shore of Oahu fell into the ocean. Climate change is real and will force us to make tough decisions. What is the first thing Hawaii should do to get in front of climate change rather than just reacting to it?

We may need to build better infrastructure, but also, if we can, try to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, e.g., seek all cost-effective alternative energy, including nuclear power.

8. Hawaii has seen a growing division when it comes to politics, development, health mandates and other issues. A governor represents all the people of the state. What would you do to bridge those gaps and bring people together in spite of their differences?

Aloha Department, Aloha Score and Aloha Court would help fairness and equality among all people in Hawaii.

The prospective nonprofit Aloha Department, which would be comprised of retired kupunas, would provide “check and balance” for our society, e.g., especially where media and politics failed to bridge gaps and promote such divisions.

9. Historically, governors and lieutenant governors have sometimes publicly clashed. How do you envision the relationship between the state’s top elected officials?

We also need to have reform on this matter, with governor and lieutenant governor candidates running together as running mates.

However, under the current system, although it may need to be adjusted, if elected I am planning to leave many functions with the lieutenant governor while I delve more into bigger planning.

10. 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.

We want to improve emotional health, understanding what our true priorities are especially at this time of pandemic medical emergency. Hawaii needs more healing, especially from the pain (e.g., low self-esteem) that we have not consciously been aware of.

Hawaii reform is all about us: Professionals first, but media first because their role is so crucial in our society. Media should have such as, e.g., journalists labor union, as we also want to create a Media Mediation Commission for the general public as a media watchdog.

Hawaii is unique in that we are very much a multicultural and multiethnic society.

We need to unite all Hawaii people in the name of aloha, (instead of dividing us with racism, discrimination, bigotry and manipulation, etc). In the end, the aloha spirit should (must) rule and govern our society. Then, our next coming generations would live much, much better than us.

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