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 Jonathan Kennealy, Republican candidate for state House District 6, which includes Honaunau, Napoopoo, Captain Cook, Kealakekua, Keauhou, Holualoa and Kailua-Kona. His opponent is Democrat Kirstin Kahala.

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 6

Jonathan Kennealy
Party Republican
Age 41
Occupation Police officer
Residence Kailua-Kona, Hawaii island


Community organizations/prior offices held

None provided.

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

The three biggest would be homelessness, lack of affordable housing and high cost of living.

In tackling homelessness it is important to remember how we got here. The homeless population is caused by drug addiction, mental illness, inability to find housing and other states shipping their homeless population to us. First,  I would like to send the homeless population that was sent here from other states back with a statewide restraining order keeping them on the mainland.

Second, I would propose putting together opportunities where each county has a workforce food/housing program that would temporarily get them up and on their feet then asking them into a long-term solution.

Third, the state needs to provide better mental health and drug rehabilitation facilities. Doing this while making unemployment, welfare, food share harder to obtain by those not willing to work would solve a majority of our homelessness challenges.

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 would like to focus more on quality of tourism over quantity of tourism. This includes a higher standard on our tourist attractions not focusing on creating more as much as the quality of the ones already in place. Creating a four-star standard of approach for all hotels and a three-star standard for all bed and breakfasts, again focusing on quality not quantity.

As for the economy we need to invest in agricultural diversity and exporting Hawaiian products.

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 simplify our tax code to include removing income, grocery and medication taxes while cutting back on our overtaxation of Hawaii residents. Building on our agricultural diversity will cause things like meats, eggs, vegetables, etc., to lower in price as we don’t have to rely on shipped goods from the mainland.

Energy and economic independence means lower cost for household utilities and overall cost of living becomes cheaper for our locals.

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?

I have no sway with the corrupt trifecta we have here in Hawaii. However legislating on a predominantly Democratic floor means I would need to remind my colleagues that when they delay or push aside legislation that benefits the people they are proving they are not of, by and for the people and the people are watching. They will take this to the voting booth.

I personally will commit to quarterly or biannual town halls where I show what I have done and the bills I would like to propose on the floor. I will take this opportunity to hear from the people of Kona.

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

I do support the voice of the people in the legislative process as long as the process and outcome is within the spirit of the U.S. constitution.

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. This will cause our legislative process to be less corrupt and career-driven. Politics was never intended to be a career but as a time of civil servitude.

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 will ensure accountability by reminding my colleagues of our oath of office and further remind them of the citizens’ constitutional rights given to them by the creator not their government. Those that would propose bills intending to promote personal gain, the gain of others and not the best interest of the people of Hawaii should  be criminally charged.

I agree with the Sunshine Law and open records laws in the Legislature. Campaign contributions should only be allowed or campaigned for during the closed session of the election year.

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 think the best thing for transparency would be to stop hiding bills in committees and subcommittees for lengthy periods of time or committing a start date to the bills of 20-30 years out. Pushing a bill to be properly looked at, debated and voted on removes underhandedness and confusion.

Record and live-stream the entire legislative process, allowing legislators to refer back to statements made as well.

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?

It is not the job or function of our state or federal government to mandate or force anything on its people. It is imperative that the people’s government provide information, education and resources. It is also important to remind the people of Hawaii that you are allowed your beliefs and decisions without having to worry about being harassed because of the choices you’ve made.

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.

Our main focuses can’t just be on one topic but on energy, economic and agricultural independence to where we can thrive as a state not survive off the artery of the mainland.

In addition, remove corruption, provide transparency and regain the trust of the people.

Where we can reinvent ourselves is in our education and our medical fields. If we can retain our kamaaina by encouraging local and diverse higher education through tech and trade schools such as medical, mechanical, police and manufacturing and construction, we can effectively raise our future generations of leaders and by doing this we are also investing into our culture.

In addition, if we can lead in a wide array of medical fields including preventive care such as “Forward Health” we can be the new standard of medical care in America.

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?