HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Nov. 6, Hawaii voters will decide whether to give Gov. David Ige a second term.
His Republican challenger, state Rep. Andria Tupola, has argued his administration’s missteps demonstrate why he doesn’t deserve it.
To better understand where these two candidates stand, HNN got them talking about the biggest issues facing the islands.
Funding for education in the islands has long been a concern.
But the issue has generated more headlines this year with the ballot question about a proposed constitutional amendment that would have raised taxes on investment properties. The state Supreme Court then threw out that question, saying it was too unclear, and its supporters were left scrambling for another option to boost funding.
Among the biggest concerns: How to better pay teachers in the islands.
Several reports have said they earn the least in the nation when the high cost of living in Hawaii is taken into account.
So how would Ige and Tupola tackle education funding?
Tupola says she’d work to assess how the Education Department spends its money.
"People are asking is there more effective uses of the money that's already there?" she said, adding that she does support more funding for students and higher teacher salaries.
“I would not support any more money going toward the department.”
Ige, meanwhile, said the DOE does need more funding to bolster salaries and better fund priorities.
“We have to work within the laws and revenue sources that we have and seek other appropriate revenue sources as appropriate,” Ige said.
“The Hawaii public school system is only school system in the county that gets zero dollars from property taxes. Not a single penny from property taxes goes toward public education. I supported the amendment because I think it’s a conversation that we ought to have in our community.”
Hawaii has a dearth of affordable housing. In fact, the state needs tens of thousands of new units to meet current demand.
In a recent interview, Tupola criticized Ige’s handling of the housing crisis, and said she’d do more to build with Department of Hawaiian Home Lands funding.
“The reality is that real lives are being affected by their lack of response and lack of leadership,” she said.
She also said that the state needs to take an inventory of its land and figure out how to build on public land.
Ige said his administration has put a dent in the affordable housing crisis, and added that work is underway to bolster construction.
"I'm most proud in the work that we've done in affordable rental especially because we are making state lands available," he said.
He added that some 3,000 affordable units have been added since he became governor, but Tupola disputes that figure.
Tupola has been very critical of the governor's leadership, including how his administration handled the false missile alert fallout.
She said Ige has simply "failed to lead."
"There are people in the current administration that are very good followers. Following directions, following directives, following endorsements," she said. "They are following a lot of things but not having the courage to stand up and lead. That's what we need."
Ige, meanwhile, said his administration has worked to beef up the state's response to disasters.
“If we want our public employees to stay current with the changes then we have to be willing to empower them and support them,” he said.
“Certainly, I think there were lessons learned why mistakes were made that allow us to improve our current practices.”