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 Chase Nomura, Democratic candidate for state House District 13, which includes Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Kahului, Paia, Haiku, Peahi, Keanae, Wailua, Kaeleku, Hana, Puuiki, Kipahulu and Kaupo. The other Democratic candidates are Linda Clark and Mahina Poepoe.

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

Candidate for State House District 13

Chase Nomura
Party Democratic
Age 28
Occupation Executive director, Maui County Workforce Development Board
Residence Haiku, Maui


Community organizations/prior offices held

Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association; Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Hawaii; Hawaiian Islands Land Trust; Kupu youth empowerment organization; Maui Matsuri/Obon festival; Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps; Maui Nui Botanical Garden; Protect Kahoolawe ʻOhana.

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

Despite sharing common challenges and characteristics among its people, each island has its own share of unique problems. Many issues in District 13 also mirror that of the county as a whole — overtourism, lack of livable wages, climate change, coastal erosion, invasive species, agriculture, food security and the economy in general.

My priorities in the Legislature would focus on addressing the current workforce shortage, improving our public school system and preserving our natural environment. This could be done by finding creative ways to address the cost of living such as supporting living wage legislation, and creating new jobs by merging industries and diversifying the economy. I would also work on improving the procurement process to address the notorious maintenance and facilities backlog that holds up repairs and improvements of our educational institutions.

While Hawaii is leading the nation in a lot of areas of environmental and natural resource management, we could be doing much more. I would seek legislation that would bring local hunters, state and county officials, and members of the community together to formalize a process that would not only address the management, but also the commercial, educational and workforce opportunities.

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?

Diversifying industries is about bringing them together in a way that they become interdependent and strengthened by their connection, in the same way that strands of ti leaves are stronger when they are twisted and braided together. Many residents have reported their concerns to me about the future of tourism and its often disruptive nature to our local communities.

The conflict here lies in the fact that we are heavily dependent on tourism. Many of us know at least one person that works in this industry and if we completely shut down tourism, then they would lose their jobs and that will hurt a lot of our working families.

I support a stronger destination management plan that:

— Includes a policy that does not cause large job displacement in our communities.

— Educates and teaches visitors about our environment and culture in a meaningful way.

— Manages the flow and capacity of tourism on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. We can change the way we look at tourism and its role in the local economy. I believe that there are many new jobs that have yet to be created and we can pivot to new industries.

3. 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 would be a champion for maintaining and expanding social safety nets especially for our most vulnerable populations, children and our kupuna. I would also support strengthening outreach operations that help connect these populations in need to the necessary resources. With that being said, I also believe it is important to continue to provide and solicit grant opportunities for our partners in the community.

We must strive toward a higher wage for Hawaii’s working families that would help address the cost of living and help keep our Hawaii families from moving away to areas that are more attractive economically. I also support more focused workforce housing programs throughout the state. Specifically I would work to connect the community with resources that are readily available and to resources that they might not be aware of yet. I support programs where families can go to and ask for help with job searching, food assistance, housing assistance, and many other free services available through federal and state funded programs.

4. Hawaii has the most lopsided Legislature in the country, with only one Republican in the Senate and only four in the House. How would you ensure there is an open exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decisions? What do you see as the consequences of one-party control, and how would you address that?

Regardless of party affiliation, I believe that it is important to facilitate new ideas from multiple perspectives. As someone who always lends an open ear to the people that I talk to, I like hearing diverse stances on issues that affect us all as it helps craft legislation that holistically addresses the issue at hand.

We should continue to have an open exchange of ideas and collectively brainstorm on how to solve problems in our community. I also support legislation that works on enhancing the Sunshine Law so that we would continue to have open discourse within government that also facilitates citizen participation.

5. Hawaii is the only Western state without a statewide citizens initiative process. Do you support such a process?

I completely support a statewide citizens initiative process. The people are the voice and they should be able to exercise their constitutional right to determine policies directly.

If they want to amend the state’s constitution, then the people should be entitled to have the power to do so.

6. Thanks to their campaign war chests and name familiarity, incumbents are almost always re-elected in Hawaii legislative races. Should there be term limits for state legislators, as there are for the governor’s office and county councils? Why or why not?

Yes, I would support term limits for state legislators. Term limits would help encourage new generations of elected officials that could potentially offer new and diverse solutions to some of our pressing state issues. With a fresh set of eyes, a new generation of leaders will bring in a breath of fresh air.

7. 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 or banning campaign contributions during session?

I would support campaign spending reforms such as prohibiting fundraisers and donations during the legislative regular session. Yes, I am open and I do support strengthening the Sunshine Law to improve access to government policymaking and the accessibility of state records.

8. How would you make the Legislature more transparent and accessible to the public? Opening conference committees to the public? Stricter disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists? How could the Legislature change its own internal rules to be more open?

To make the Legislature more transparent, I would support a broader expansion of the broadcasting of the legislative session, committee hearings and the conference committees. It should also be promoted live via the legislative website.

In addition, I would also support improving the Capitol website to be more interactive and user-friendly for members of the public. A fresh update of the website would create more appeal and hopefully increase the participation of the public within the Capitol. Another internal rule I support making is having the state ethics disclosure reports text-searchable and easily accessible in a user-friendly database.

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

I believe that communities come together when they celebrate art and culture. A renaissance needs to happen where we highlight and appreciate our local artisans and musicians. Island-wide celebrations of traditional practices as well as innovative practices of creative methods in the fine arts need to happen. Creating and holding space where we can acknowledge our individual creativity and proudly display our creations while supporting each other would eliminate the gap that is trying to divide us as human beings.

We live in this world together and we share this planet with each other. We lose ourselves in picking a side and fighting until we lose our humanity. We must remember to “aloha kekahi i kekahi,” love one another, and to “aloha me ka palena ‘ole,” love without limits.

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 Hawaiʻi. Be innovative, but be specific.

It is no surprise that Hawaii is lagging in terms of technological integration in our systems and government. With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning advances in technology, we could improve the efficiencies of our systems and augment our workforce needs.

An example of this could be used to update and assist with automating the Unemployment Insurance system to approve UI claimant applications and provide suggested edits to incomplete or questionable claims so that claimants would be able to process their benefits quickly. With advances in computers and automation, we need to keep in mind that technology should not replace jobs and remove human autonomy but it should instead augment processes and make things easier for human interaction with new and innovative ideas.

In order to implement these types of upgrades, we would need to work with all parties involved, provide the equipment and software, as well as train the staff that would be involved in its operations. Updating policies and procedures by using technology to eliminate duplicative services and reduce the paper footprint of administrative office documentation is another way to improve the efficiencies of our current systems.

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