Democratic candidate for governor: Kai Kahele

Kai Kahele decided to give up in his seat in Congress to run for governor, saying his focus is on helping improve the everyday lives of Hawaii families.
Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 9:39 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:44 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - “Bold,” “courageous,” “decisive.”

Those were the words U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele used to describe himself when asked what kind of a leader he is.

And those are the attributes, he says, he would bring to the Governor’s Office.

“I really believe leadership is defined as the ability to influence others around a common goal or a common vision to accomplish whatever that goal or vision is,” he said, during his “The Job Interview” session with HNN and Civil Beat. “Great leaders do that, they inspire. They’re able to navigate complex problems quickly.”

[Special Section: The Job Interview]

Kahele officially announced his run for governor in May, becoming a late entry into the race.

He pledged not to accept donations from unions, political action committee, or corporations, but his campaign’s ambitions took a big hit in July when a clerical error meant he was not eligible for public financing.

To help voters learn more about the candidates for Hawaii governor, Hawaii News Now partnered with Honolulu Civil Beat to conduct “The Job Interview” — a series of one-hour interviews with gubernatorial contenders.

To run for governor, Kahele gave up his congressional seat.

During his one-hour interview with HNN and Honolulu Civil Beat, Kahele said his experience in Congress and state government is what Hawaii needs to emerge from the pandemic and tackle longstanding issues.

Among those issues: Grappling with the Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction on Mauna Kea.

Kahele said he doesn’t support moving forward with TMT unless the state can address underlying concerns.

Click here to head to our Campaign 2022 section for more election coverage.

“First and foremost, it’s respect on Mauna Kea for our sacred places,” he said. “Our sacred mountains, our sacred watersheds.”

He also said if he were governor, no keiki or kupuna would be arrested in protests.

“That is the worst-case scenario when we have gotten to the point where our communities feel so unrepresented, where they feel so unheard, unrecognized, that they’re willing to put their life on the line for something that they believe in,” he said.

In 2019, some 38 people — most of whom were kupuna — were arrested during TMT protests.

“What happened on Mauna Kea has to be addressed by this next governor, because if we don’t, we’re gonna continue to divide the state,” Kahele said. “In this generation, it is the Kahoolawe of my generation.”

Kahele equated the TMT project to others the state is dealing with — including the Red Hill water contamination crisis and Makua Valley — in that there are inherent issues that need to be addressed.

“We have to address that we just can’t force a project, any project through this state like that. That’s how we divide our communities. We pit families against each other,” he said.

To watch all of the “The Job Interview” sit-down sessions, click here.

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