Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 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 Tamara McKay, Republican candidate for state Senate District 7, which includes Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Kahului, Paia, Haiku, Peahi, Hana, Kipahulu, Ulupalakua, Waiakoa, Pulehu, Pukalani and Makawao. Her Democratic opponent is Lynn DeCoite.

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 7

Tamara McKay
Party Republican
Occupation Self-employed
Residence Makawao, Maui


Community organizations/prior offices held

Current Maui County Republican Party chair; current Convention of States Grassroots coordinator; co-founder and current vice chair, Aloha Maui-Hawaii Republican Women; former chair, Maui Up Country Fair.

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

Water meters, health care for kapuna on Molokai, affordable housing and farming.

In regards to the water meters, the entire system needs to be overhauled. It is unacceptable that families are on a waiting list for decades and once “their number” comes up, they have to pay astronomical prices or be asked to complete unrealistic tasks. There are alternative water catchment solutions out.

Molokai people are in a situation of depression. Part of the issue with unemployment and welfare dependency has to do with poor health. Families are forced to stay at home rather than work to care for the elderly. We need to invest in our people and build the proper facilities for proper care.

There are opportunities on Molokai to build local economic growth in farming as well as sustainability that they can assist in feeding the state. We don’t need a major corporation to monopolize what the Hawaii people and farmers can do and benefit from to enrich their lives and ensure they are not being forced from their native homelands.

Affordable housing can be done if we create a policy that there should be no absentee ownership and short-term rentals should first be offered to local investors that have lived in Hawaii for at least 5 years. We are allowing absentee ownership and foreign investors to dominate the market and price out generations of families.

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?

We need to amend the Jones Act. There is no reason why Hawaii should not or could not be a major exporter of Hawaii-grown foods or produce alternative products to export not only internally within the islands but even to the mainland and local countries. We can build a distribution center to export made in Hawaii-only products, we can grow hemp, expand or revamp the possibility of exporting deer meat, which would be a win win for the ranches as the deer have overtaken prime grazing pastures.

Our political representatives have been selling out Hawaii to developers and deep pockets rather than creating economic opportunities for the local people and generations of families to flourish on these opportunities.

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?

It all encompasses what I have said before in my other answers. We need to take the monies and allocate them properly, control the frivolous nonprofits, create economic opportunity through agriculture and sustainable options, invest in small businesses, limit foreign land purchases and absentee ownership, as well as limit commercial companies’ ability to swallow up and monopolize the family-owned businesses that are the heart of the culture of Hawaii.

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?

We need to educate the people and get them to the polls as well and guarantee their sacred votes are properly respected. Election integrity is a key component to our process and our rights. When I get into office, I will hold transparent and open “town halls” with the people. Insist on an open forum so the people can see for themselves who is really representing them and who is listening to them.

Holding an office seat is to be a servant of the people, and I believe that concept has been forgotten. It is necessary to have a two-party system as we have different beliefs and we need an opposition to keep others accountable. A one-party system is limiting and a pathway to socialism. This country was based on the foundation of freedom and free thinking.

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

Yes. This country is for the people by the people.

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. Besides keeping the representatives a little more on their toes, it keeps things fresh with new ideas.

I like the message that Benjamin Franklin expressed that term limits keep the representatives in a position to vote accordingly as they have to live with the laws they created once they return to normal life.

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 do believe in transparency as long as the information that is obtained is not used to harm anyone. No one is perfect, but we should be willing to be open and subject to accountability. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then it shouldn’t be an issue. The solution is to be open and transparent, and hold each other accountable.

We do need to have task forces to look into questionable avenues such as bogus nonprofits and extortion. We are supposed to be trusted servants to the people. I would propose an integrity task force to ensure in-office performance is managed and proper training is applied.

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?

There shouldn’t be a reason other than national security why we could be more transparent and accessible to the public. Setting monthly town halls and biweekly zoom meetings. Live viewing of sessions. Definitely stricter disclosure requirements for lobbying.

How can they change it? By doing the opposite of what they are doing, and start listening to the people and being available.

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’s all about solutions and coming together. Having conversations from all sides of the table. Division is created by purposeful division. When one wants control and chaos they don’t allow cooperation and communication.

Many people need to be educated and hear another point of view. We need open and honest media to have fair and balanced discussions.

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.

A lot of our outdated systems are due to misappropriating funds and making deals with foreign entities as well as Big Business.

First of all, I would not have allowed the takeover of commercial businesses. People come to Hawaii for the culture. I would create grants and incentive programs to bring back the Hawaii I remember. We have a huge opportunity with agriculture and Made in Hawaii products. I would not allow big money to buy up land and push up the prices out of reach to the local families and generations of people who were and are the foundation of Hawaii.

Since we do have individuals who are on Maui that are worth billions, I would ask that they not buy out Hawaii but contribute to Hawaii in a way that would enrich the lives of the people. I would ask someone like Jeff Bezos, to rebuild the Puunene Mill and turn it into a distribution center for Made in Hawaii products only. Get the steam going again and regenerate the electricity that it could provide to Maui Electric.

I would ask those types of people to buy and/or donate land to create tiny homes that were self-sustaining for the homeless and give them a purpose and dignity. Tiny home villages could also be great for those who cannot afford nor want a big starter home, students, transitional homes, and more. There are successful models for these programs, and we can use them to enrich our community and bring back the beauty as well as the aloha of Hawaii.

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