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 Elijah Pierick, Republican candidate for state House District 39, which includes Royal Kunia, Waipahu, Honouliuli and Lower Village. His opponent is Democrat Corey Rosenlee.

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 39

Elijah Pierick
Party Republican
Age 27
Occupation Chaplain, teacher, pastor, officer in Air Force Reserves  
Residence Ewa Beach, Oahu

Website

Community organizations/prior offices held

Organized backpack drive for Papakōlea schoolchildren; volunteered for nonprofits supporting houseless and environmental beach cleanups; officiated OIA games at Waipahu and Campbell high schools; traveled to the Philippines providing mission and humanitarian support after typhoon Yolanda; volunteer counselor, Kapolei Youth Detention Facility; mentor, Hawaii Youth Challenge Academy; president of multi-congregation council.

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

Crime and the economy are the most frequently mentioned topics. To reduce crime, we can recruit and retain more police officers. To help the economy, we can lower taxes and have HECO lower their electrical rates.

District 39 has two zip codes (Ewa and Waipahu), 15,000-plus residents living in 7,800-plus homes in over eight neighborhoods. It is too narrow of an answer to say there is one biggest issue facing our district. Each neighborhood is unique with their own set of preferences and desires.

I have walked each of our neighborhoods, going door to door, asking my neighbors, “If I get elected, how can I serve you? What can I do for you?” Here is a breakdown of the feedback from many of the neighborhoods (Royal Kunia, Village Park, Harbor View, West Loch Fairways, West Loch Estates, Hoopili, Oasis Town Homes): Economy, crime, education, homeless, housing, corruption, HOA, rail, speeding and tree trimming.

For these specific neighborhoods, multiple residents mentioned the following: West Loch Fairways, clear the back park of overgrowth; West Loch Estates, build a playground for the kids; Hoopili, the HECO electric poles should to go underground; Oasis Town Homes, drugs are a problem.

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?

In 2019, 10.4 million tourists came to Hawaii. In this year alone (2022), we have had less tourists than in 2019 but our revenue from those tourists is already greater. This was through smarter and targeted advertisements for our future tourists. If we get a higher clientele of tourists from outside of America, we have proven that we can get fewer tourists with even greater amounts of profit for the state.

Multiple states in America have zero state income tax. This is through their tax revenue coming from other sources. Florida, for instance, has zero state income tax but high taxes on their tourists. Hawaii should adopt a similar model of getting more of our state taxes from our tourists.

Hawaii should also direct its attention toward diversifying the economy through building a bolstered tech industry, film industry, and allowing interisland trade to occur through bringing back the super ferry. The film industry is already established in the state and is growing. The super ferry has been desired for years, and it should be reinstated so that our islands can become more connected.

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? 

Hawaii can remedy this situation by reducing the tax burden (to include “fees”) on individual citizens and businesses, and reducing the regulatory burden wherever possible. Specifically, we should:

— Immediately remove the excise tax from the following basic necessities: food, long-term rent, gasoline, and medical care.

— Eliminate excessive regulation of small businesses.

— Reduce excessive licensing and other fees that impede the creation and operation of small businesses.

— Eliminate the Hawaii estate tax.

— Limit property tax increases to 2% per year unless and until the property is sold. This will ensure that property owners do not suffer from property value inflation while politicians enjoy windfalls of taxpayer largesse and being able to claim “they did not raise taxes.” Consider gradually reducing the maximum annual property tax increase to 0% as a homeowner ages from 65 to 85.

We should call on our congressional delegation to:

— Immediately amend the Jones Act (aka the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) to institute permanent exemptions for Hawaii.

— Immediately demand full funding by the federal government for costs incurred by the State of Hawaii resulting from the Compacts of Free Association (COFA).

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?

If elected, as the representative for District 39, I would cultivate open dialogue between both parties. As a Republican candidate, I would bring a greater voice to the minority party within the state.

By electing more Republicans, we would have a more balanced state government.

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

A statewide citizens initiative process is basically letting American citizens vote on what becomes law. It is giving the voice to the people directly to democratically vote on what should and should not be the law of the land.

America is a constitutional republic. We elect individuals to represent us in the House and Senate. For more controversial issues, it might be prudent to let the people directly vote on these issues.

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?

There should be term limits. If elected, I will promote term limits becoming law.

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?

If elected, I will share all of my accounting records with every necessary ethics committee on a continuous basis. I am currently a member of an ethics committee within the medical community. Transparency, being genuine, truthful, and having integrity are essential qualities of any elected official.

Yes, I am in favor of open record laws applying to the Legislature.

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 House and the Senate have transparency guidelines. Voters can learn more on what is going on in the Legislature through tuning into the correct broadcasts, looking up the archives, or logging into the chamber records. Yes, there should be disclosure requirements on lobbying and lobbyists.

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?

The division comes from proponents of the far left and far right disagreeing. Many of the issues facing our island are issues both parties agree need to be improved: economy, crime, housing, homelessness, etc. If elected, I will bridge the gaps by focusing on the main issues with other members of state government.

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.

From a conservative philosophy, with a limited government, businesses have the freedom to grow, prosper and hire more employees. With greater business income, they can afford to pay their employees more. With employees’ salaries increasing, they can buy more goods.

With less taxation, we have more money to spend on buying a home, helping our kids with a better education and having a comfortable retirement. Hawaii can become an economic powerhouse in the Pacific. We simply need to limit our government and allow our people the freedom to operate and prosper.

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