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 Michelle Tippens, Libertarian candidate for the 2nd Congressional District, which covers rural Oahu and the neighbor islands. The other candidates are Democrat Jill Tokuda and Republican Joe Akana.

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

Candidate for 2nd Congressional District

Michelle Tippens
Party Libertarian
Age 44
Occupation Disabled veteran
Residence Eden Roc, Hawaii island

Community organizations/prior offices held

Co-founder, HVCA, a veteran service organization in Hawaii since 2015.

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

There are many issues before the residents of Hawaii. From significant housing shortages to corruption in our Legislature, our state is dealing with so much that many residents become disgusted with the system and quit being heard by leaving their votes uncast – another issue that we face.

While I do what I can to encourage those around me to vote, I see that many of Hawaii’s issues can be alleviated or potentially resolved by addressing the disproportionate effect the Jones Act of 1920 has on the Hawaiian Islands. The Jones Act cripples the Hawaii economy, creates supply shortages (long before Covid-19) and keeps our maritime and port industries from developing, on islands!

I will work to get an exemption for Hawaii from the Jones Act, which will reduce our cost of living in Hawaii by over 30%, allow housing costs to reduce and normalize and bring potentially thousands of new jobs to our islands. This will give people meaningful employment and lower expenses, which means our current paychecks will go further without the price hikes associated with minimum wage increases.

2. What can the U.S. Congress do about mass shootings in America? Would you support banning military-style assault weapons and establishing universal background checks? What other measures would you propose to reduce gun violence?

As an American and as a Libertarian, I stand by the Second Amendment that our right to arm ourselves and protect ourselves from government oppression shall not be infringed. Gun violence is not a government issue, it is a social issue and the intermingling of the two is the precursor to government overreach.

I believe that socially, we could change our approach to guns through normalization, education and awareness. Since before the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, our government has criminalized gun ownership and created a standard where simply owning a gun makes people seem more dangerous to their peers. Guns do not make a person a criminal, their choices and behavior do. We have a criminal justice system to address that, why are we taking people’s rights away for acts they haven’t committed?

Gun violence is best solved by strengthening the family and increasing the amount of time people have to spend with their spouses, children and extended family. In Hawaii we can do that fastest and easiest by exempting Hawaii from the Jones Act, as I mentioned before this will make our dollars go further, meaning one job instead of two or three and more time we can enjoy with those that matter most.

3. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and the questions of whether the 2020 election was stolen have shown how seriously divided the nation is. Some say democracy itself is in trouble. How would you work to end the political polarization that divides both the Congress and the country?

The reason our politics have become so polarized is there are only two parties being elected to the system, which takes away all the diversity that makes the U.S. so awesome. Most people I know aren’t Republican. They aren’t Democrat either! Even McDonald’s has three flavors of milkshakes, why in the world would only two political options work? It won’t.

If we want to end the polarization of our government and elected bodies, we need to vote based on the actual party (or candidate) we agree with instead of trying to contort ourselves into other people’s idea of government for the sake of trying to pick the winning team. Who we pick is the winner, it’s not a sports bracket. Many people voted “against” a candidate in 2020, and in 2016. I want to suggest to everyone that the solution is to vote “against” both of them – the solution is to vote for the third parties.

We have a total of six political parties in Hawaii and that means four other options. Google the candidates by name and ignore the party endorsements for the general election and I believe we can get the diversity back in our government, which will fix the polarity, increase transparency and halt corruption.

4. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while currently financially sound, risk future funding concerns because of changing demographics. What would you propose to shore up the country’s major safety net programs?

These programs need an audit to ensure the funds allotted to it are spent correctly and transparently. In addition to ensuring the funds are spent as intended, auditing government programs that are failing and re-appropriating those funds to programs like these will also help keep these programs strong for the future.

5. What is your position on the Senate filibuster?

The filibuster holds special value in a properly functioning (ahem, diverse) Legislature. It is a last opportunity for the “little guy” to stop unwanted or unjust change. It’s easy to see that value in our own state Legislature, where almost every seat is Democrat and three senators in the last few years have been convicted of corrupt acts.

If there was only one person in the Senate from a different party, how would they have any chance to stop something getting passed by a corrupt group without the filibuster? The filibuster is meant to be the balance mechanism for the part of the Legislature that is not based on population, and I think it has value even when we don’t agree on the result. Our government is meant to protect our right to think differently from each other, not prescribe our morality.

6. Is the U.S. on the right path when it comes to mitigating climate change and growing renewable energy production? What specific things should Congress be considering?

I can say that the U.S. is on a path, however I see the changes are happening far slower than necessary while the current “players” in the system figure out how to ensure they get a piece of the profits from any new systems developed.

Congress should be investing in locally developed, privately managed solutions that become sustainable within two years of installation. This would mean an initial investment that recovers its cost and continues to generate energy without any additional investment or minimal investment for maintenance. This solution should be one that does not involve drilling into the aina or cutting down the valuable and rare plant life that is so unique to our islands.

One of the technologies I am aware of that would be excellent are small-footprint wind turbines that can be mounted in clusters on the existing rooftop space of government buildings and can offset by percentage the electrical expense of every resident. We can also build a high-temp incinerator that burns household garbage to create electricity without any emissions.

There are many options for green energy in Hawaii, we just have to be willing to research and find what will work best in each of our communities.

7. The Jones Act requires that domestic freight transport on U.S. waterways be conducted by crews that are at least three-fourths American, and on vessels built in U.S. shipyards, and that are American-owned.What is your position on this law and its effects on Hawaii? Does it need to be amended or repealed?

The Jones Act inflates our cost of living by over 30%, creates supply shortages, is a major contributing factor in our housing shortage and keeps hundreds of jobs from coming to Hawaii ports. Not only is the Jones Act crippling the residents of Hawaii financially, it prevents our small businesses from growing and keeps maritime jobs on the continent – keeping Hawaiians unemployed and dependent.

I will seek to exempt Hawaii from the Jones Act and will work to bring jobs home to our islands and our cost of living down. I want a Hawaii her people can afford.

8. The Biden administration says China is the greatest long-term threat to the U.S. and has been trying to expand its influence, especially in the Pacific. What can the U.S. do to build better relations with the Asia-Pacific region?

The U.S. can stop weighing in on conflicts that aren’t ours to start rebuilding relations with other countries on our planet. Other countries have their own way of doing things and whether we agree or disagree personally, the U.S. government should not be investing in either side of someone else’s conflict with taxpayer money. Our government was created to protect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness according to the Declaration of Independence and the overreach of our current government has created a financial burden upon all of us that is unnecessary.

Opening our minds and hearts, communicating openly without threat or judgment and working to find a middle ground have always served me well in other countries and I believe that the same approach will do a lot toward healing U.S. relations with many countries, including those in the Asia-Pacific region.

9. The Red Hill fuel crisis illustrated not only how critical the military’s role is in Hawaii but also the serious problems it sometimes causes. It is also a central component of the local economy. What would you do to ensure the military behaves responsibly in the islands? 

Groups like the Sierra Club have been at the forefront of working for change in the way we value our water resources in Hawaii. Investment in our private sector to get funds for watchdog organizations that are part of the local community and are invested in the safety of our water because they drink it too is essential.

Government has demonstrated its inability to successfully run these systems and it is time that groups with the correct skill set in the local community took over these programs.

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.

Hawaii’s reliance on outside commodities is the most significant thing Covid-19 highlighted. We are a tropical paradise with 1.4 million residents, we could support our own food needs and the food demands of other places if we invested our energy and funds into planning and creating community spaces to grow food and teach our youth how to be less dependent on outside sources for food and materials.

Another flaw is the lack of adequate, clean bathroom facilities for the public with appropriate lighting and solar-heated water.

The idea that warm showers will encourage homelessness is unsubstantiated and ridiculous. What warm showers will encourage is showering and I know we would all prefer to encourage rather than prevent our homeless population when it comes to showering. It is also pretty horrible to only have ice cold water from the mauka to rinse off at the beach after paddling in at sunset.

An Important Note

If you consider nonprofit, independent news to be an essential service that helps keep our community informed, please include Civil Beat among your year-end contributions.

And for those who can, consider supporting us with a monthly gift, which helps keep our content free for those who need it most.

This year, we are making it our goal to raise $225,000 in reader support by December 31, to support our news coverage statewide and throughout the Pacific. Are you ready to help us continue this work?