Coffee with a Candidate: Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor Kim Coco Iwamoto

Former school board member Kim Coco Iwamoto is the first transgender person elected to office in Hawaii.

Iwamoto is running on a civil rights and ethics platform.

Here are some things you might not know about Iwamoto:

  • Kim Coco Iwamoto was named after the Coco Palms Resort.
  • Iwamoto is a licensed therapeutic foster parent.
  • Being a foster parent led her to get involved with the Board of Education.

Questions for the candidate:

  • How’d you get started with public service?

You know, it was pretty organic. I was foster parenting teenagers, and many of them were previously homeless or incarcerated. But in advocating for their education, I had to go to the Board of Education and say 'hey, you know what? My kids are being bullied in schools and you need to do something about it.' But instead of claiming that responsibility and being accountable to families, the Board of Education, they were basically blank-faced and nothing happened. So, we decided, I have to run for the Board of Education because if we didn't have a seat at the table, my kids would be thrown under the bus. So, that's what got us started into public service in that official capacity.

  • And what was that first initial experience like for you being a public servant?

It was an honor to represent so many young people and families whose only chance at achieving their dreams is through education… I actually think it was the highest office. So, when people talk about running for higher office, I'm like, well I felt like Board of Ed was the highest.

  • And what about your run now for Lieutenant Governor? Why that office?

You know, I was so inspired by Bernie Sanders and the presidential primary of 2016, and when he didn't make it through the primary, he asked us to do two things. He asked us to support Hillary, which I did. He also asked us to run for local office and to hold government accountable to the people and make sure they weren't just selling us out to corporations. And so that's why I'm running.

  • You know, one of the criticisms or observations rather about the lieutenant governor’s office is, you know, they don’t have a lot of authority, a lot of power to do things. For you as a candidate, what is the most important policy issue?

I want to first get back to the myth, the statement about not having a lot of power or authority. Being an advocate for the people is extremely powerful. To throw open the doors of the lieutenant governor's office, so that the people can gather and build coalitions and collect their power and reclaim their democracy, that is power. So this idea that you know, one of the past lieutenant governors mentioned not being assigned to duties, that is about your work ethic. Do you wait around by your boss to assign you work or do you say this work needs to be done. I ran a campaign to serve the people not something to do.

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