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 Antionette Fernandez, Republican candidate for state Senate District 24, which includes Kaneohe, Puohala Village and Kailua. Her opponent is Democrat Jarrett Keohokalole.

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 24

Antionette Fernandez
Party Republican
Age 62
Occupation Retired nurse, farmworker, ranchhand, fisherman
Residence Kaneohe

Community organizations/prior offices held

Volunteered at Eagle River School mentoring and tutoring disadvantaged children on Flathead Indian Reservation; volunteered with Nancy Graham Ministries at Lily of the Valley orphanage in Brazil, volunteered with food distribution efforts during pandemic, volunteered with 4H teaching farming and animal husbandry to children. 

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

The biggest thing facing our community is the cost of rentals and lack of rentals. High property taxes and the high cost of living are our biggest issues in Kaneohe. If elected I would only pass bills and laws that actually benefit our people. Bring down taxes, cut out unnecessary spending on committees and never-ending studies. These committees for studies are wasting money and using taxpayer money. This money should go back to the people, cutting property taxes and increasing benefits to people who open up housing for local families.

Tax cuts for rentals and landlords who provide affordable housing and safe and clean updated homes. Landlords should receive tax benefits for this service to our community, they should not be penalized by paying higher taxes or be so regulated by the government who benefits from fees. Yes, the housing must be required to be suitable and clean, but ultimately it should be a win-win for all.

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 vote on bills that actually benefit our Hawaiian islands by allowing people to have businesses that are making us self-reliant and sustainable and opening up free trade between islands and supporting nonprofit ferries — an idea thought of by Gary Cordery, a candidate for governor.

This is a great plan. To allow the people in our community to be free to open businesses and not have mandates or liberties taken away. Our people need to have more freedom. We need to help to start and locally support people and entrepreneurs who do not have degrees but have a desire to open shop. These businesses who serve our communities need less regulations. Regulations prevent people from success, and stunt our economy.

Hawaii tourism should not be our first economic reliance. This industry is not truly benefiting the people; it is however beneficial to offshore companies. Hotel chains. Expensive store chains, etc. It’s taking a toll on the natural resources of our beaches and local people. Yes, we want the visitors to come and experience Hawaii but our citizens should come first. Preserve the people and the local small businesses and we will flourish.

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?

First of all the corruption must stop. The pork spending must stop. All the fees for everything must stop. Our dependence on the upper 48 must decline, we must be self-sustaining and allow the people of Hawaii to grow and distribute to other islands without cost.

Monies should not be put into never-ending studies that pay people year after year and never come up with solutions. The cost of running Hawaii increases every year and taxes continue to rise.

These officials keep spending and Hawaii citizens keep waiting and don’t see results. These elected officials become untouchable and must be held responsible. Ethics Commission members should not be selected by the governor but by a vote from peers. Families are struggling because of corruption by the current elected officials.

Voting for career politicians is hurting the people because they become numb to the real needs of the community, there is a disconnect. Children are leaving after college to other states because there are no opportunities here after receiving degrees. This must change.

Businesses that closed during the pandemic should be supported and helped to come back. The funding sent for Covid-19 relief should be monitored and used to help restore all businesses that were forced to close.

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 would bring light to the public about who submits bills through our legislative branch and where these bill originate. Open to the public complete transparency. Accountability of bills and laws passed by each member of the house so communities are aware of bills and laws that are on the table. There should be scheduled community town hall meetings explaining bills and laws. The people need to be able to scrutinize the bills and know exactly what is going before the house before it’s passed without total transparency. The public must have a voice.

The elected official is serving the people, not above the people. In the case of one-party rule there should be access to lawmakers through whatever means available. In many cases you are able to talk with the candidate but after elections they are silent and they rarely talk with constituents. This is not serving the people, this is citizens being left behind.

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

No, I do not.

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 believe in term limits. It prevents corruption and opens seats for new thoughts and fresh ideas. Giving chances to the public to trust in the people’s house and changing out officials who are not serving the people well.

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 believe the Ethics Commission should not be appointed but should be a civic duty of the people to vote them in these chairs.

The work of the commission cannot be biased. This ensures balance between those in office and the public. All areas should have transparent records open to the people and swift action to investigate and convict or dismiss charges.

People in office should not be receiving campaign contributions during session. This can lead to corrupt acts that lawmakers may be tempted to do. This should not happen. The Sunshine Law is a wonderful way to bring light to laws being submitted, although the Covid-19 isolation provided a way of keeping  things done behind closed doors out of the public eye. Covid mandates allowed lawmakers to do things in secret. This is corruption that must be stopped. Also, if truth be told, lawmakers pass bills that keep them from being prosecuted, or change from state to county to avoid prosecution. This is corruption!

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 would make things more transparent by including the public on all bills being sent to the house that would change the fabric of our communities. Giving the public a chance to give their voice. Public announcements that announce  bills, and give pros and cons, not just passing them without community awareness.

We need open conferences and strict disclosures about lobbyists. There should be public observers who are able to see and be present during this process. It is the people’s money and the elected officials work to serve the people.

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 would give the God-given rights back to the people to have choices. It’s all about the constitutions of Hawaii and the United States. The people have their individual rights. These rights have been violated and people are forced to take these vaccines against doctors’ advice or against religious beliefs. This is tyranny.

I spoke to a man the other day from China. He said: “This is no longer Hawaii but resembles communist China, a place I ran from.” Shocking but true. God-given inalienable rights were taken from the people, forcing our people to come under tyrannical government.

How we bring our people together is to serve them with all diligence. The people must be on top, the government is to serve not reign over.

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.

Return to the ways of aloha and do not allow fear tactics to steer the public. This pandemic did not kill as many people as was portrayed and to force our children to wear masks and everyone to take a vaccine that has not been totally approved or lose their livelihood was tragic. In hindsight it hasn’t prevented Covid-19.

The strange thing is that the people in Congress and senators in Washington, D.C., were not mandated to vaccinate or lose jobs, they were able to keep their right to choose.

The thing I would do different is to investigate this and not spread pandemonium. Protect the vulnerable. Allow people to keep their freedoms, according to the constitution, without closing down businesses and forcing people to lose their jobs unless they took the vaccine. In hindsight this was disastrous for our state and our country.

The point is, the reports and the numbers were exaggerated and there were drugs that could have helped that citizens were denied access to. Anyone that gets a disease should have a right to take prescriptions to combat the disease. This is a right to be treated.

So what I would do differently is to allow people to choose instead of forcing this type of overreach by the government.

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