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 Sam Puletasi, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. The other Democratic candidates are Keith Amemiya, Ikaika Anderson, Daniel Cunningham, Sylvia Luke, and Sherry Menor-McNamara.

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

Candidate for Lieutenant Governor

Sam Puletasi
Party Democratic
Occupation Retired federal agent
Residence Ewa Beach


Community organizations/prior offices held

Regional chair, Democratic Party; board, League of Women Voters; board, Civil Air Patrol; Ewa Beach Neighborhood Board; retired, Hawaii State Medical Board; Filipino Urdaneta Association/Coach AYSO; district  chair, Oahu County Committee; spearheaded/supported many community events for seniors/disabled/veterans/civil rights/LGBT/churches/Surfriders Foundation/food bank charities.

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

Without a home, a person will typically be living on the street. I recommend rapid rehousing to lower the time a household experiences homelessness; shared housing to allow more people living in the same building and sharing costs. This will be an intervention to immediately connect people to housing and services.

It is also necessary to utilize pallet shelters to end unsheltered homelessness and give people a chance to restore their normal daily activities such as gaining employment and other benefits.

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?

Diversification is used to encourage positive economic growth and development. We have to work around our existing resources and promote its growth through innovation by removing unnecessary and unclear laws. As more and more businesses open their doors, it will lead to the growth of supporting many industries in our state.

We need to compromise the rules between businesses and consumers. For example, government should waive certain unnecessary fees on business if minimum wages become an issue.

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, for the many residents who are below the poverty line, the Hawaii Public Housing Authority helps provide residents with affordable housing and shelters. Its efforts focus on affordable rental and supportive housing services. I believe working closely with HPHA and providing appropriate directives and guidance to accommodate and house these residents immediately is a must.

Many Hawaiian households experience problems of affordability, overcrowding and structural inadequacy. Due to the high cost of living, it is highly recommended to increase affordable rentals. We need to compromise with developers to build reasonable projects at low prices. The revolving funds will make a huge difference if we are able to obtain the necessary amount continuously in order to keep up with the markets.

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?  

I’ve helped out a lot donating and sponsoring events advocating for good causes. There are many underlying causes and issues that are out of our control and even the government’s. We need to promote and advance quality services across the board.

If people depart Hawaii because of job security, poor education, gas prices, expensive hotels, cost of housing too high for both rentals and ownership, unemployment and so forth, then we need to find ways to generate the revenues in order to cope with the cost of living.

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?

I would rely on an impact study and the guidance from any elected governor.

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?

Require all lawmakers and staff to undergo training on ethics issues. Enforce disciplinary measures on everyone who fails to act where action is required both willfully or through neglect; ones who share willful inappropriate action, intentional incorrect action or advice and willful intentional action that cause more embarrassment to the state. Avoid all conflict of interests.

7. 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?

I rely on the governor with his or her decisions and policies when addressing many critical issues affecting us all. Like the old saying, no one is perfect. I’m good in carrying orders. I believe following orders from the governor will create a great team to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency for any issues.

8. The office of lieutenant governor has few official duties and is often viewed as irrelevant. But some LGs have managed to play a significant role in government. What would you do to make the office more productive?

Work closely and consistently with the governor and ensure that whatever I do will not disrupt the governor’s role.

9. Sometimes Hawaii governors and lieutenant governors have not gotten along very well, and those disputes have spilled into the public realm. How important is it for you to be on the same page as the governor, and how will you handle disagreements on policy?

Like any other job, I would work closely and consistently with the governor’s agendas as he or she is boss. The governor will need all the cooperation and support from the LG to get things done without any headache. It’s a stressful position. As an entertainer, I’ll probably offer my talent to serenade the governor if deemed necessary. People need to be more creative.

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.

I believe we need to put to good use all that we learned from the pandemic about how our modern lives and the economies function and where they don’t. Especially in the areas of health care, education and employment and match our needs with technologies more flexibly, equitably and efficiently.

We need to take time to think about our purposes and know that we aren’t just in the loop though we are in the loop. Therefore, to make things happen, we need to interact with the systems and integrate technologies into our lives.

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