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 Marilyin Lee, Democratic candidate for state House District 38, which includes Mililani and Waipio Acres. Her opponent is Republican Lauren Cheape Matsumoto.

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 38

Marilyn Lee
Party Democratic
Age 82
Occupation Retired registered nurse
Residence Mililani, Oahu


Community organizations/prior offices held

State representative, 1996-2012; Mililani Neighborhood Board No. 25, 20 years split service, in office now; Mililani Lions Club, first vice-president-elect; Soroptimist International of Central Oahu, program chair, former president president-elect for next term; board member, Friends of Mililani Public Library; former board member, Central Oahu Homeless nonprofit; School Community Council, Mililani High School, present and for last 10 years.

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

There are many but two important ones are the decision by HART to delay the construction of a park and ride for transit as promised in Pearl City and the announcement of the closure of the long-term care facility at Wahiawa Hospital, taking away over 100 long-term care beds.

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?

I believe that the aerospace industry needs to be encouraged and this is a great opportunity for all those STEM students to look for in the future. How about space tourism? If Richard Branson can do it so can we.

I am a fan of TMT and proud of the many discoveries we are seeing made on the Big Island now. We have also much more potential in agricultural exports if we would just give it a try.

Tourism is our lifeblood but we need other choices for the economy.

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 need to find more affordable housing solutions as the cost of housing takes up much of the income earned by many, and we must find more sustainable food sources that are both inexpensive and nutritious, like ulu. Subsidies for rent could also help.

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 control does not mean everyone in that party thinks the same. There are many different factions arising usually from philosophical differences, and they are not always collaborative.

The state of the Republican Party is not the fault of Democrats, and many are Democrats because of the history of the islands and the general comfort level found.

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

I would support land use initiative only. We do not want to be a state that depends on initiatives to change things. Money spent on initiatives in California, for instance, is extreme.

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?

Term limits can be useful, but the people vote their choice and that is the way it should be.

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 support open records and banning contributions during the legislative session. Sunshine is a nice idea but in a large body would be difficult to accomplish.

I am appalled by the actions of the former police chief, prosecutor and some legislators. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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?

Conference committees are open to the public in the sense that there is usually an audience allowed. I would favor more open hearings and reasonable time limits on testimony. The use of zoom for hearings has improved the process.

Lobbyists should not be allowed more time than the public to express opinions or to have access to information. They should refrain from writing their own legislation. Internal rules could be made more lenient and the people’s need to know should not be forgotten. Legislators should also be more open to the press.

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?

Unfortunately, the whole nation seems to be moving in this direction. I think organizations like neighborhood boards and community groups should be given more respect and press coverage. Forums and focus groups can help too.

The leadership, however, sets the tone and we need more leaders who are collaborative.

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.

Although the coronavirus made our lives difficult, there were many examples of people helping people with food banks, etc. Hawaii people usually rally in a crisis and in many cases they did just that.

We do need a lot better data collection and improved technology in order to manage a serious pandemic, and I think lessons were learned. Citizen groups who are trained to react in emergencies represent a good way to create neighborhood bonds that become critical in emergencies. The Medical Service Corps idea can be expanded to other areas of need.

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