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 Steve Yoder, Republican candidate for state House District 16, which includes Wailua, Hanamaulu, Kapaa, Lihue, Puhi and Omao. His opponent is Democrat James Tokioka.

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

Candidate for State House District 16

Steve Yoder
Party Republican
Age 67
Occupation Tour guide/chauffeur
Residence Kapaa, Kauai

Community organizations/prior offices held

KKCR Radio DJ, 1998-2022; GOP Kauai County chair, 2015-2021.

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

The high cost of living in Hawaii is the biggest issue. The average family of four in Hawaii is now paying $650 per month in overall expenses more than they were on Jan. 20, 2022.

Remedy: Vote no on any new legislation that increases taxes and fees levied on Hawaii taxpayers; lobby to repeal the 1920 Jones Act that drives up the cost of shipping goods to Hawaii.

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?

Government can reduce regulations and fees that hinder business in Hawaii. Hawaii has the second-highest overall taxes among the 50 states, which makes doing any kind of business improbable.

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? 

Repeal the Jones Act to lower the cost of goods shipped to Hawaii; reduce state governmental regulations and fees; lower taxes. Analogy: If Walmart raises its prices (taxes, regulations), they reduce their sales and profits. If Walmart lowers their prices (taxes, regulations), they’ll increase their sales and profits. We should run our state like a business, not like a bureaucracy.

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?

You’re asking the question of the wrong party. It’s up to the Democrats, the present majority, to ensure an exchange of ideas, transparency and accountability for decisions.

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

I would support the citizens initiative process to allow the electorate to put measures and proposals on the ballot. I’ve seen too many times where the one party, the Hawaii Democrat party, ignores the testimony and will of the people.

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 to term limits. The reason to do so is the very reason you gave; campaign war chests and name familiarity. Holding office shouldn’t be a career that one profits from for personal gain. Holding office should be a short-term service to the county and state. Too much time enjoying political power eventually corrupts the very reason people serve in office.

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?

Yes on both accounts. The press has a responsibility regarding this matter too.

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? 

Opening conference committee meetings to the public, most certainly. Once again, the press plays a most important role in shining the light on unfair and unscrupulous decisions in the Legislature.

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?

Today we see no matter how much the public is informed regarding health mandates, the government insists on draconian measures and mandates, i.e., wearing of masks, cancelling Kauai’s Fourth of July yet allowing other county parades, which infers people don’t deserve freedom.

It infers people aren’t allowed to make their own decisions such as in other countries; Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and China.

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.

You never commit a knee-jerk reaction in shutting down the entire economy. It’s amazing how business in Hawaii was shut down, yet the government did not. Government leaders didn’t follow their own rules; pure hypocrisy. They allowed themselves to freely live yet encumbered the citizenry.

One Big Idea: Inform the public what the danger is and allow them to proceed to ensure their own safety. The One Big Idea is called freedom of choice.

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