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 Samantha DeCorte, Republican candidate for state Senate District 22, which includes Honokai Hale, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae and Makaha. Her opponent is Democrat Maile Shimabukuro.

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 22

Samantha DeCorte
Party Republican
Age 42
Occupation Property Management Division, Department of Transportation - Airports Division
Residence Waianae, Oahu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Word of Life Christian Center, community leader.

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

Senate District 22, representing Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, and Makua, comprises the largest Native Hawaiian homestead population in the State of Hawaii. Our priority remains housing Hawaiians first.

There are 28,000 beneficiaries on the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waitlist and I intend to work closely with the Department and Commission to secure additional funding for land acquisition, infrastructure development and home construction.

The only way to rehabilitate the Hawaiian race is to place their feet back upon the soil.

I will make the Native Hawaiian community a priority. I will focus on our people and work to prevent them from needing to leave Hawaii, and in doing so, will work to preserve our community, and our values, to see our people thrive.

In addition to housing Hawaiians, I will focus on reducing crime and poverty. I would also like to restore trust in government, and in political leaders, by truly representing my community — with the heart of my community, with the heritage of my community, and with the convictions of my community.

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? 

There is broad public support and consensus for diversifying our local economy, until then, tourism remains the primary source of revenue for funding state and city services. I would work with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, private industry, economic development boards, and nonprofit associations including the Chamber of Commerce, to develop a managed access plan promoting responsible tourism.

Hawaii is a destination paradise and its culture, residents, neighborhoods, and environment must be protected. We must attract visitors who honor historic sites, people, and places, and are mindful of Hawaiian language and cultural practices.

As an alternative to tourism, I would support and promote the development of our agricultural and film industries. I would further support the Department of Education in promoting alternative career paths to develop a local workforce through public education for these industries.

Specifically, I would like to see Hawaii become the premiere destination for film. The film industry would generate revenue, create living wage union jobs, and work collectively with tourism to promote our islands.

We could incentivize film by building studios, providing better tax credits, and developing a local workforce, thereby creating a better business environment for networks and production companies.

3. An estimated 60% of Hawai’i 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? 

As a wife and working mother raising a middle-class family in Waianae, I personally understand the grit and determination instilled in those struggling to survive. If elected, I would propose and support the following initiatives:

— Eliminate the general excise tax on basic household necessities like food, gas, personal hygiene products, diapers and medical prescriptions. This is the most direct and efficient way to help the middle class and working poor, immediately.

— Eliminate the state income tax on individuals earning less than $100,000 a year, and further eliminate taxes on employee benefit programs like unemployment insurance.

— Provide publicly funded preschools and after-school care in all communities, statewide, for working families.

— Provide paid sick leave for employees and paid maternity leave for families. Other states have funded these programs similar to unemployment insurance.

— Implement career and technical education programs to develop a labor ready workforce in our public high schools and universities to help students become ready for higher education or work.

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? 

As a Republican candidate running for state Senate, my primary solution for diversifying opinions in the state Legislature starts with being elected first.

In a free society, no political party should ever be allowed to control all the affairs of government. In practical effect, this perpetuates a single political ideology that operates without question, without hesitation, without opposition, or dissent. It silences an otherwise vocal minority.

Single-party rule limits, or prohibits, alternative political thought, education and discourse, it affects how elections are run and won, and it makes membership in any other political party contentious or offensive. It fundamentally undermines or alters our political and legislative processes.

I would strongly support civics education and political discourse being taught in public schools that provide options for students to better understand our government, laws, traditions and the importance of preserving a constitutional republic.

My election alone would mark significant and measurable progress as a member of a loyal opposition necessary for protecting and preserving a truly free society.

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

Yes, I support a statewide citizens initiative process.

I would further support a statewide citizens initiative to impose term limits on state lawmakers and city officials. However, any measure adopting a citizens initiative process should have rigorous provisions related to ballot access and additional safeguards for the legislative, judicial and executive branches to ensure these measures are fiscally and constitutionally responsible.

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 state legislators.

I support existing term limits for the governor and would further support strengthening term limits for county councils. These measures in effect preclude any individual from accumulating too much influence or power within their respective legislative chamber, or branch of government. These measures are necessary to prevent corruption and an abuse of power, they would also provide for new voices and new perspectives in government.

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, I would support greater transparency efforts in state government and would vote to support enacting provisions of the Sunshine Law, and other open public record laws, on the state Legislature and on state lawmakers.

Yes, I would support banning campaign contributions during the legislative session to prevent potential conflicts of interests, and to avoid undue influence on a legislator’s ability to vote for a contributor’s interests above the public’s 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?

The legislative process can be intimidating to navigate for those unfamiliar with the process. During session thousands of bills are introduced, assigned to various committees, each with its own internal deadline for passage.

There are representatives, senators, lobbyists, corporate interests, private industry, special interest groups, political advocacy organizations, nonprofits and constituents hurrying through the Capitol using political terms, definitions and acronyms not spoken in daily life.

This process can be overwhelming, unnecessarily complicated, and prohibitive to constituents who often submit written testimony that is never read, or submit verbal testimony that no one listens to.

If elected, I will review all options and support all efforts to make the Legislature more transparent and accessible. I would support the continued use of remote conference technology for submitting public testimony and video streaming and archiving of committee meetings and public hearings.

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?

Hawaii has seen growing division in public discourse and politics because our elected officials and news media insist on there only ever being one right answer. In order to bridge the political divide, each of us must learn to accept and respect opposing views. To listen to others and to accept their perspectives without a desire to criticize, reprimand, correct or change. To acknowledge and honor the sincerely held beliefs and lived experiences of others.

The smallest minority is still the individual, and dissent the truest form of patriotism.

No one should ever be forced to bow at the altar of political correctness, to say, to think, or to do what others expect of them, or be compelled by force to submit to the prevailing thoughts and opinions of the day. That approach is inherently combative and hostile. It is inconsistent with our system of government, our laws, our traditions, and our governing philosophies.

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 Hawai’i. Be innovative, but be specific.

If I could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, I would divest and decentralize political power from Honolulu. Our state and county governmental structures have vested too much power in too few people.

I would establish local municipalities, in alignment with our existing neighborhoods, and grant them local taxation, permitting and police authority to address community issues and provide government services closer to the people.

At the state constitutional convention, delegates prioritized placing political power in the hands of a strong central government and in a chief executive arguing those principles best aligned with our previous traditions as a constitutional monarchy.

Our state and county governments, in turn, are too large, too bureaucratic, outdated, and unresponsive to even the most basic needs of residents. Hawaii is governed by one political party, a single political class — if politicians and political parties are not to blame, perhaps we need to examine the underlying structure of our government and our institutions.

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