Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 General 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 Michael Parrish, Republican candidate for state Senate District 9, which includes Hawaii Kai, Niu Valley, Wailupe, Waialae, Kahala, Kaalawai, Kapahulu and Kaimuki. The other candidate is Democrat Stanley Chang.

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

Candidate for State Senate District 9

Michael Parrish
Party Republican
Age 58
Occupation Attorney
Residence Waialae-Kahala, Oahu

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

Our biggest issue is that Josh Green said upon taking office he will declare an emergency if the Legislature doesn’t give him legislation he wants. District 9 deserves a senator who will stand against the willful usurpation of separation of powers. Without adherence to that tenet, we have tyranny.

We’ve just seen the damage that kind of governance can cause. I will fight to ensure that no governor makes criminal law out of whole cloth and smothers us with it. Our current lawmakers don’t seem to mind that form of governance because they are almost all of one mind. It’s outrageous and very dangerous.

Our Emergency Management Act, Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 127A, needs a major overhaul. When politicians threaten to declare emergencies out of thin air, and they have virtually unfettered discretion to do so, we are in big trouble. We need politicians to understand their role, not usurp our constitutions.

People are concerned about safety. We need more law enforcement presence, better pay and better training. People are concerned about real emergencies: floods, boulders falling, hurricanes, volcanos, dilapidated infrastructure and then some. We need to know there will be food, gas and toilet paper when things go bad.

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 will always live with tourism. It’s because Hawaii is one of the most famous and exotic destinations in world history. We should continue to capitalize on that. We should also make our airports nicer. That’s the first thing people see when they arrive in Hawaii by air. We need a world-class airport to promote Hawaii as a world-class destination for everything, from cutting edge mental health treatment facilities to STEM based industries with small carbon footprints, not just for tourism.

We need a business-friendly government but have the exact opposite. We have too many statutes, codes, rules, and regulations that make doing business costly and difficult. All those stumbling blocks drive up costs and we consumers suffer. There’s less competition.

We also have oppressive taxes. Our overregulation and taxes are not conducive to doing business smoothly and freely. That’s got to change. We need to make it easier and attractive for all kinds of professions and industries to do business in Hawaii. More opportunity means more options and better pay. Better jobs and better pay make housing more affordable.

Declaring emergencies and transferring wealth are harmful, not helpful. Our politicians are responsible for our economic woes.

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?

We’ve been having this conversation for decades. In fact, we’ve been seeing the same survey questions over and over and over. If we keep voting for the same people, we will keep getting the same outcomes. If we want different outcomes, then we need to vote for different people with different ideas.

Our lawmakers and bureaucrats have made it very difficult for regular people to do business in this state. We need to make it easier to do business. We are missing out on many opportunities because it’s a pain in the okole to run a business in Hawaii. It’s nice to see Chick-Fil-A and other popular franchises come, but it takes them forever to open, even with their gobs of money and lawyers. It’s amazing how regular folks are able to get small businesses up and running and then keep it running. It can be daunting.

Every session politicians pile on more laws making it harder. We should instead be shredding some of those laws and rules that don’t serve any purpose anymore. Things would be better if we would loosen up. We really are a bad-for-business state, and we all bear the costs because of it.

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?

I see what’s directly in front of my eyes, and everyone else does too. What you see are the consequences of one-party rule. If you like what you see then vote Democrat, it’s been this way for decades, no need change. If you want something different, something better, then vote for someone else.

With one-party rule there are few new ideas, only more of the same old ones and more taxing and spending to go along with that. It’s up to the people to decide what they want; more of the same, or something different. I’m tired of the platitudes and pie in the sky promises that go unfulfilled. We really need to focus on the here and now. We need to make the most out of the resources we have and not to spend money that doesn’t address the real issues.

We have a housing shortage because our overall cost of living is extraordinarily high. It’s extraordinarily high because we are over regulated and overtaxed. That drives up costs of goods and services and indirectly makes housing less affordable because the money is for survival and there’s little left to save for a down payment and a mortgage.

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

No. That’s what legislators are for. If they’re not doing what we want then vote them out, regardless of party affiliation. Initiatives mean majority rule. Majority rule can be very dangerous. We have a republican form of government that is supposed to guard against mob rule for that very reason. Legislation is what legislators are for.

On the other hand, we absolutely need a recall measure. The lockdowns did real, permanent harm to thousands of people. The individual responsible for the lockdowns remains unaccountable. That is unacceptable. There is no way we should allow anything like that to happen again.

I will do everything in my power to make sure that never happens again. It’s particularly disturbing that the Democrat gubernatorial candidate is chomping at the bit to declare emergencies and issue proclamations and executive orders. He boasted about his plans during the debates. He believes that just because he says it’s an emergency, he can do whatever he wants, constitution be damned. People should be horrified. That is not supposed to be how our government works. I promise to do everything in my power to protect the people from that flat-out tyranny. One-party rule is dangerous enough.

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?

No. Every election is a term limit. It’s not an issue of incumbency. It’s a lack of accountability. None of the Democrats hold any of the others accountable for poor decisions. Instead, they pile on more poor decisions of their own. Probably because if they broke lockstep, they would suffer dire consequences from the party.

By way of example, our Legislature wants to ban gas-powered cars starting in 2030. That’s eight years from now. Sadly, because our government promotes this idea and the media praise the idea rather than examining the consequences, many people think this is a good idea. It’s not. It’s a horrible idea for virtually everyone other than the wealthy. For regular folks, electric vehicles are impractical, much less affordable. It’s more pie-in-the-sky policy making that will do more harm than good. Earlier in this survey you state that the so-called “middle class” is disappearing.  Keep pushing the elimination of gas-powered cars in eight years and you’ll wipe out the middle class in nine years.

On the other hand, if only we could have small-scale nuclear energy, electric vehicles might make more sense. Fat chance of that happening unless we have different leaders.

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?

The first thing I’d do is reconsider the commission. We have too many of those already. If the legislature is serious about self-governance and corruption, then it should legislate stiffer punishment for corruption and change its house and senate rules to account for bad actors.

I’m a big fan of open government and I want to ensure that there is more open debate and less back-door dealing. Back-door dealing comes with one-party rule. Elections are supposed to be the best form of accountability.

Sadly, we have an entrenched political party that works hand in hand with our educational institutions and the media thereby ensuring that there is no accountability. We should be teaching our students to be skeptical of every aspect of government. Instead, we teach them to adopt the Democrat party line. We should expect less media bias. Take honest polls at our print, television and radio media, and you’ll find one-party rule just like the Legislature. Fail to toe the party line and you’ll get fired, or harassed until you quit, no kidding.

This triad of the Democrat party, public education and progressive media promotes business as usual. There will be little accountability until that changes.

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?

The best way to make the Legislature more transparent and accessible to the public is to end one-party rule. When one party makes all the rules or chooses to not make rules the Legislature is neither transparent nor accessible to all. When things get uncomfortable it simply appoints commissions.

On the other hand, when there are more opposing party members in the Legislature it makes things a little harder for one party to ram through agendas behind closed doors and out of the public eye. It’s not the written rules, or lack thereof, that are the problem. The problem is with one party rule there is no accountability. Lobbying and lobbyists are not the problem. Lawmakers who take money in exchange for votes are the problem.

The solution is a vigilant unbiased media, not obsequious sycophants who are indistinguishable from the Democrat party. For example, if Civil Beat could assign a regular reporter to connect lobbyists and money to votes and lawmakers, then publish the results, maybe some eyes would open and change would follow. The real pressure needs to come from without, because it is not going to come from within. There is no incentive.

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?

While we as a community share many different opinions about politics and policy, there is almost always some common ground. That is exactly why, and how, our country, our state and our communities have lasted so long in relative harmony. We all share some common ground.

I believe that, despite our differences, we each also have some love for one another along with that common ground. Love includes patience and kindness. We can start with patience and kindness and ultimately overcome many of our differences for the common good.

We can do that if we have purpose, a common purpose. I believe our common purpose should be to ensure that we gift our children and their children something better than we have. We have it good, compared to those who came before us and made things better for us, but we’ve been headed in the wrong direction. We are not on our way toward better.

I am able and willing to help point us in the right direction and get us moving in that direction, despite our differences.

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 and be specific. 

It was the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic that exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s government structure and systems, not Covid-19 itself. The Emergency Management Act needs to incorporate a lot more legislative oversight. We cannot allow one person to make and enforce law. That’s tyranny, and that’s what we watched for nearly two years.

If Democrats stay in charge of the executive branch, it’s only going to get worse. We know this because the Democrat candidate for governor said so. He is chomping at the bit to declare emergencies and ram down more bad ideas on us while the one-party Legislature sits idly by.

My one big idea is that our politicians should stop cramming the green agenda down our throats unless they are serious about real viable alternatives to our energy needs. One is small-scale nuclear energy. If we had that source of energy, then encouraging everyone to buy electric vehicles would be less authoritarian and more practical and palatable. Windmills and solar panels just don’t get it done, and they aren’t likely to get it done anytime soon. The nuclear technology is there, and it is safe. Why not consider it? It’s irresponsible not to.

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