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 Leo Caires, Democratic candidate for state Senate District 7, which includes Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Kahului, Paia, Haiku, Peahi, Hana, Kipahulu, Ulupalakua, Waiakoa, Pulehu, Pukalani and Makawao. The other Democratic candidates are Lynn DeCoite and Walter Ritte.

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

Candidate for State Senate District 7

Leo Caires
Party Democratic
Age 44
Occupation Business owner/commercial finance officer
Residence Moku o Kula, Maui


Community organizations/prior offices held

Past board member, Hawaii USA Federal Credit Union; past chair, Hawaii State Board of Registration; past vice-chair, Maui County Cost of Government Commission; fellow, First Nations Futures; Leadership Development for Indigenous and Aboriginal Community Leaders.

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

Strengthening the standard expectations of leadership in this district.

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?

Change your leaders.

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?

The forces of inflation are very powerful and significantly reduce the buying power of the individual if income does not keep up with inflation. The family classes are still here, they aren’t able to combat the inflationary forces. The idea is to change leadership where the voters see fit.

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?

Who deemed our state “lopsided”? I tell this to everyone, change your leadership in any seat with your vote, if these are issues you as a voter wish to fulfill.

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

Do the people of Hawaii want to be like every Western state?

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?

The people of Hawaii have the power to make changes in their vote.

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?

Please refer to my response to question No. 1.

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?

Change your leadership.

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?

We have amazing people in Hawaii and in my district. There are outside forces trying to divide us.

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.

Vote your conscience in this election and good luck.

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