LIHUE — Ron Curtis knows he is facing an uphill battle to unseat Sen. Mazie Hirono.
He knows he doesn’t have experience in holding public office.
He knows he doesn’t have name recognition in Hawaii.
And he knows being a Republican in Hawaii is not as popular as being a Democrat.
He doesn’t care.
The Kalaheo man believes his low-cost, no-frills, to-the-point campaign is gaining traction and he might pull off a major upset on Tuesday in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
“It’s about the message, not the money,” the 57-year-old said in a phone interview with The Garden Island. “I’m running on the strength of message over money, solutions over soundbites.”
“It’s not about the Democrat solution or the Republican solution. It’s about the right solution,” he said.
Curtis moved to Kauai in 2009. He worked for over 35 years for federal government contractors as a systems engineer in the Washington, D.C., area.
He worked with NASA’s Koke’e Park Geophysical Observatory five years and retired in 2016.
This is his first run for public office. He considered seeking a House seat, but noted posts are open every two years, so you spend much of your time campaigning.
Curtis, who speaks quickly and with energy, said he would rather be getting things done for the people, so he set his sights on the Senate.
He didn’t follow the traditional process of sign-waving, public forums, buying ads and sending out fliers.
“How about if I do this a different way? he said.
He attended nonpartisan meetings, listened, learned what the issues were for people — housing, transportation — and went about finding solutions at a federal level.
His response is more like, “This is what I’m going to do. If you like what I say I’m going to do, then vote for me.”
He points out he doesn’t say he’ll check on something, or look into it and instead offers concrete answers. If people emailed him questions, he gave them answers, promptly.
“I get back to them right away,” he said.
His message of being practical, hands-on, disciplined, an agent of positive change, found a following. Despite not filing his candidacy papers until late May and spending less than $2,000, he won the Republican primary in August, receiving 6,370 votes, 19.5 percent, to top a seven-person field
Among his goals if elected is to establish a national healthcare system that is accessible and affordable, restrict government growth, and repeal the Jones Act to creative competition in the global shipping market and turn Hawaii into a major shipping hub.
Noting he is personally financially secure, he vows to give most of his $174,000 annual Senator salary to charities in Hawaii for keiki.
Curtis said he’s been getting more recognition of late from the media when they seemed to realize Hirono had an opponent in the general election. She didn’t in the primary and received 201,679 votes.
Since then, Curtis has been campaigning largely through his website, which outlines his platforms in detail, and only recently began advertising, primarily targeting millennials.
He has been traveling more and did some sign-waving Friday in Kapaa.
He considers himself approachable and doesn’t take money from special-interest groups. He believes people are fed up with the current system.
“They don’t have any faith in it,” he said. “We’re trying to give them that faith.”
Curtis said he will rise above the partisan rhetoric that is prevalent in Washington, D.C.
“Our nation is becoming divided,” he said. “We need to make it whole again.”
He believes in peace through strength, and believes President Donald Trump is doing a good job.
Curtis likes to spend time at home and owns three dogs.
“I have a pretty simple life,” he said. “I’m coming out of retirement to do this, not for me, but for Kauai.”
His campaign is one of basics. It’s about finding solutions that will benefit people. And this isn’t rocket science. People, he said, care about what they’ve always cared about — family security, financial stability, health.
“They want to live with their families in freedom with as little involvement from government as possible,” he said.