LIHUE — It may be a few days before Hawaii’s primary election, but for Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., that doesn’t mean he’s slowing his campaign for the lieutenant governor’s seat.
“I feel really good and energized. We have a great team in place with representation from every single island and we’re out and about,” he said in a phone interview with The Garden Island newspaper from Oahu Monday.
His goal is to meet 1,000 people daily until voters head to the polls Saturday. Meeting people at the grassroots level is where the magic is at, he said.
“It’s been an honor to serve as the mayor of the island of Kauai and Niihau and I’m ready to take all that experience that I’ve taken from back home and share it with the state,” he said.
One recent poll, published by Honolulu Civil Beat more than two weeks ago, places Carvalho in third place, with Sen. Josh Green in the lead with 31 percent of the vote, Sen. Jill Tokuda in second with 17 percent of the vote and Carvalho placing third with 13 percent of the vote.
But polls aren’t that much of a concern for Carvalho.
“Our poll is meeting as much people as I can in the last five days,” he said.
Carvalho has been Kauai’s mayor for 10 years. He said that experience has given him the skills to run the office of lieutenant governor and his first order of business will be restoring the connection with people and aloha.
“We’re asking everyone to think big,” he said. “Before, I worked for the islands of Kauai and Niihau, but now I have to think for the entire state, so I’m thinking big.”
Across the state, Carvalho said houselessness was a major concern of constituents. As lieutenant governor, he said he would continue to work on affordable housing.
“We cannot address it only on Kauai and Maui, we have to address it statewide,” he said.
In April, Kauai experienced historic rainfall that caused severe flooding on the North Shore, in Anahola, Kealia and Koloa. Disaster preparedness is something Carvalho said he would like to tackle on a state level.
“We’re being challenged worldwide and with all the things we’ve gone through, hurricanes and issues with flooding, it’s important we come up with a good, solid preparedness plan throughout the state,” he said.
With the flooding and continued volcanic eruption on the Big Island and now the possibility of Hurricane Hector impacting Hawaii, Carvalho said natural disaster issues will continue to come this way and Hawaii must be prepared.
“You never know how devastating they could be,” he said.
The one thing Carvalho wants Hawaii residents and voters to know is that he is honest, a family man and a proud papa.
“I truly want to serve the people of this state in a way they can really reach out and have their voices be heard in the future of this state,” he said.
Running for lieutenant governor is the next logical step in his career, he said.
His path is being consistent, but more importantly, the office fits well with his family.
Respecting the Native Hawaiian culture and the connection of the land and water is important when making decisions.
“If we can keep that, that’s the alignment that needs to happen, from keiki to kupuna,” he said.
According the poll, State Sen. Josh Green, of Hawaii Island, said if elected he’d take full ownership of the homeless health care crisis in the state while tackling the opioid epidemic. His plan includes opening several clinics where Medicaid dollars can be used more effectively in a proper medical setting to treat the homeless and drive down costs.
The money saved would be used to fund affordable housing.
“This unique perspective I’ve had as an ER physician has shown me that our families need support in this area,” Green said. “We need a lieutenant governor that’s active 24/7, like I’m accustomed to,” he said.
Former member of the Board of Education, Kim Coco Iwamoto, advocates for solutions to homelessness that include cracking down on short-term rentals, returning them to the long-term market, increasing the minimum wage to $22 an hour and increasing state and county funding for mental health and drug rehabilitation services.
“We could afford the best public education system, preschool through graduate school, if the Legislature raised the corporate tax rate and property taxes on non-resident investment opportunities,” she said.
Because she’s run a campaign entirely free of corporate contributions, Iwamoto says she’s the most trustworthy candidate.
Oahu State Sen. Jill Tokuda and Oahu State Sen. Will Espero are also running for the office of lieutenant governor.
At a Hilo forum in June, Tokuda said the cost of living is pushing young professionals out of the state in search of more affordable lives.
“We have to run government as we all do at our kitchen table,” she said.
During that same forum, Espero said education and affordable housing are prominent issues.
“I want to be the housing czar for the next administration. I want to implement the bills that we have passed,” he said.
West Hawaii Today contributed to this article.
Bethany Freudenthal Courts, Crime and County reporter, 652-7891, email@example.com