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 Carole Kauhiwai Kaapu, Republican candidate for state House District 29, which includes Kamehameha Heights and Kalihi. Her opponent is Democrat John Mizuno.

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 29

Carole Kauhiwai Kaapu
Party Republican
Age 60
Occupation Senior legislative analyst
Residence Kapalama Heights, Oahu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Member, Neighborhood Board 14; Lanakila Senior Center Participant Advisory Board; American Red Cross Hawaii Regional feeding lead. 

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

The cost of living. One part of the plan would be to reduce the General Excise Tax on necessities, by excluding food and medical purchases. Basic needs will be less expensive for families trying to make ends meet.

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?

When we reduce the cost of living and business regulations, we encourage young entrepreneurs to stay in Hawaii and build their businesses here. As it is now, ever-increasing regulations, taxes and costs are strangling our current small businesses. We need to reverse this trend.

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?

By creating two separate housing markets. One that is market rate, available for all to purchase including international investors. This is what we have now.

The second would be for local residents only. You must live in the home and pay taxes in the state to qualify. This would be done by requiring that all housing built with tax credits and government subsidies stays in the “local market” in perpetuity. Currently this type of housing (like much of what has been built in Kakaako) is only required to stay with local owners for a set amount of time (typically five to 10 years).

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?

This is why I am running for office as a Republican, to give a voice to the many in Hawaii who don’t get heard by our current elected officials.

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

I support the idea. People should be able to have their voice heard if the elected officials are not responding.

But I also am wary of the process being overused by small groups of people who want their ideas promoted. I would want fairly rigorous guidelines to get a question on the ballot.

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, I support term limits for all elected offices. For the House and the Senate I’d like it to be around 10 years. A decade is long enough for someone to learn the job, and get important projects done.

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 think the Sunshine Law and open records laws should apply in the Legislature. I like the idea of banning campaign donations during the session, but I don’t think it will make much difference. The donors can give the day before or the day after, that doesn’t change much.

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?

Having worked for seven sessions at the Legislature, I think what needs to change is the minds of the legislators themselves. If you want to hide what you are doing from the general public, you can always find a way to do it. What’s needed is a new breed of legislator that is a public servant, not a politician. It’s time for Hawaii voters to change the people in office, to stand for Hawaii.

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 value open dialogue and discussion of different ideas. My basic principle of life is what is pono? What is best for the people of Hawaii? Our laws should protect people’s liberty, private property and ability to make a living.

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.

Reduce the regulatory barriers to business. We need our small businesses to thrive to support our people.

One example is, why did the house down the street need over a year to get a permit to rebuild? The builder put up a sign when he tore down the old house, and updated it as he waited for the permits. It was sad to see the property vacant for almost 16 months before they could start to build the new house.

That is a small example of how our regulatory system is not serving the people of Hawaii. Over-regulation goes much further than in housing permits. We need to look at what is stopping our people from being productive and remove the barriers that keep our economy stifled.

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