I’m running for Congress because I can’t find any politician who is speaking for me, and that means they’re probably not speaking for many of you. I’m running so you know you are not alone.

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Growing up on Kauai in a family that displays a photo of the Obamas next to photos of my cousins, I called myself a Democrat without a second thought. I continued to be surrounded by Democrats while studying environmental engineering and policy at Stanford and while working for a decade fighting pollution.

The older I got, the more I felt like I didn’t belong in any party. I was used to being an “outsider” in some ways; I’ve refused to microwave food in plastic since the pre-smartphone era.

But lately I’ve seen a lot of media framing my stances as shameful, whether it be my view that billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine isn’t the best use of our tax money (to put it mildly), or that mandatory Covid-19 lockdowns seemed to do more harm than good.

I’d been against vaccine mandates since 2020, when that was a mainstream Democratic position — with Joe Biden stating, “I don’t think [the vaccine] should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory.”

These days, my social media feed seems to think that everyone who is against vaccine mandates is pro-life and conservative.

I’m guessing that many pro-choice and pro-mandate people see abortion as a procedure that does not result in loss of life, and as an important right for women who have financial, health, and/or other barriers to completing a pregnancy or raising a child. Whereas they see the mandates as saving lives at an insignificant cost.

And I’m guessing that many pro-life and anti-mandate people believe they are saving innocent babies’ lives, while Covid has solutions other than vaccines that they believe are better. These are very emotional issues, and we live in stressful times. But politicians should fight for what they believe in while understanding where other people are coming from.

Honest Viewpoints

We can — and I would, for example — simultaneously fight for abortion rights while working with pro-life folks on efforts that would reduce some of the reasons people get abortions, such as the inability to take time off from work during pregnancy, let alone while raising a child. Who knows how many of our friends and family privately hold beliefs that we’ve condemned?

Society will not progress when the people we most want to engage are afraid to honestly discuss their viewpoints — or are outright censored. Society also will not progress if politicians are not willing to stand up for those who are silenced and powerless; how can we convince people something is worth fighting for if our leaders won’t fight till the end?

Democrats Unity Breakfast raising arms after singing Hawaii Aloha with Governor David Ige and right, Senator Mazie Hirono at the Dole Cannery Ballroom.
Top Hawaii Democrats at the August 2018 Unity Breakfast at the Dole Cannery Ballroom. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

For my perspectives, some may call me a “Democrat In Name Only.” Well, I think that the word “Democrat” is a name only. I have, at different points in my life, called myself a Libertarian, progressive, independent, Green, moderate, and more.

I used to get into long discussions about the meanings of these sorts of terms. What do we even mean by “big government”? Does that include cops, since they’re government employees? The CIA? The military?

Through it all, my core belief never actually changed: that too much power in too few hands tends to corrupt. I suspect this is a belief many share, much more important than any label.

Too much power in too few hands tends to corrupt.

From all parts of the political spectrum, we hear that the “other side” is mean, the other side is brainwashed, the other side is hypocritical. But we all have contradictions in our belief systems. I’m vegan, yet whenever I’m woken up by a rooster, I wish for the genocide of every chicken in the state.

We can forgive ourselves and each other, and evolve over time. We each have experiences and perspectives that allow us to see certain things more clearly than other people. I believe we need people elected who are willing to express — and consider — unpopular opinions, in order for society to collectively come up with solutions outside of the box.

And we have to always keep in mind that we might be wrong. Remember when everyone thought Pluto was a planet?

In my ideal world, there would be no political parties. (See above my belief that power tends to corrupt.)

But I’m running as a Democrat because anyone — Democrat or not — can vote in the Democratic primary in Hawaii. I’m running as a Democrat in the hopes that you reconsider your idea of what a person “like you” believes and who a person “like them” is, and remember our common humanity.

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