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 Cheryl Rzonca, Republican candidate for state Senate District 14, which includes Kalihi, Fort Shafter and Moanalua. Her opponent is Democrat Donna Mercado Kim.

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 14

Cheryl Rzonca
Party Republican
Age 58
Occupation Operations manager for behavioral health care practice
Residence Moanalua Gardens, Oahu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Board member, Hawaii Family Forum; board president, Family Ministries Center; board president, Positive Connections Inc.; board member and publicity chair, Hawaii Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services; vice-president/entertainment chair, Family Day Outreach International; board member, Momilani Community Association; fundraiser, Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Center; organizer, National Day of Prayer at the Capitol Auditorium; Hawaii Christian Coalition.

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

The biggest issue facing my district is school transparency and parental rights. Parents should have a say on what is being taught to their children and all curriculum should be easily accessible for public review. I would advocate for a restructuring of the Board of Education with the possibility of having an elected school board instead of an appointed one.

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 definitely need to diversify our local economy. We need to look at sustainable living and potential exports.

Right now, the outdated 100-plus-year-old Jones Act needs to be reformed. It is costing us jobs as well as hurting our local economy.

Supporting small business should be part of the plan. We need to look at the tax and regulation burdens put on our small businesses and make some changes to allow them to thrive.

In regards to tourism, we need to explore ways their dollars can be used to fund maintenance and repair of our local attractions.

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?

Tax burdens need to be eased. For starters, a temporary waiver of the gas tax would help; removing the state general excise tax from food and medicine/medical care; property tax rates needs to be revisited.

We need to create a more business friendly environment, which now includes more home-based businesses. The burden of funding the rail needs to be relieved.

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?

One party should never be solely in control. I believe term limits are needed. One of the biggest travesties seen in the past two-plus years is the blatant disregard for the voices of the people in favor of the opinions of the politicians, which we are now reaping the consequences for with the high numbers of suicide cases and mental health issues; not to mention repercussions of job and business loss due to unconstitutional mandates from government overreach. This is the result of one-party control.

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

I would look into supporting it if it is of interest to the constituents in my district.

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, there should be term limits because, as you stated, incumbents almost always get re-elected and we have the same problems and issues for another four years. Incumbents get too familiar and complacent in their positions to the point of taking their jobs for granted.

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 definitely am open to applying the Sunshine Law and open records laws to the Legislature as well as banning campaign contributions during session. I also believe there shouldn’t be any contributions to any public elected servant from any entity that could be construed as a conflict of interest.

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?

I would support just about any measures to make sessions totally transparent and open to the public in person and through broadcast.

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 there has been way too much government overreach currently and in the past two years, which has caused a lot of division among our islands, our communities and even in our families.

I don’t believe government should have their hand in every aspect of our lives. People’s inalienable rights, guaranteed to them in our Constitution, have been ignored. We need to restore the people’s rights to medical freedom. We are not wards of the state. We have the right to make medical decisions for ourselves; accept or refuse approved medicines and medical procedures.

I also believe our right to freedom of movement, interstate travel and out-of-state travel, was infringed upon and kept families separated and isolated. We need to ensure that these kinds of things never happen again. Being in the mental health field, I have seen first-hand the damage that has been done and know that it will take a while to repair, and in some cases is irreparable.

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.

There were many options and choices that were never offered to the people. Much money was spent on unnecessary things like refrigerated containers that were never used, excess ATVs and other vehicles for HPD that sit unused, all purchased with CARES Act money.

The biggest thing that needs to be done is an audit. A transparent, unbiased audit of every department is needed. We need a grassroots government and government needs to stay in its rightful place, within its boundaries set forth in our Constitution.

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