LIHUE — When Andria Tupola ran for governor of Hawaii last year, not everyone thought it was a great idea.
She hasn’t forgotten what some said to her.
“You’re the wrong age.”
“You’re the wrong ethnicity.”
“You’re the wrong everything. Why are you doing this?”
Tupola held her ground.
“I did it anyway,” she said.
And she did better than most expected.
The Republican from Oahu received 131,719 votes, 33.7%, to 244,934, 62.7%, for incumbent Gov. David Ige.
While she lost her bid for the four-year post, she was not discouraged. In fact, she was encouraged.
Tupola is already gearing up for another run at Hawaii’s highest elected office in 2022.
“I think there has to be a shift in the type of leader that gets out there,” Tupola said during an interview with The Garden Island on Thursday.
She has platform points on key issues like housing, education and jobs, which she’ll continue to outline. But more important right now to Tupola is showing she is the kind of person people want to lead the Aloha State.
“For a lot of people, they’re looking for someone that’s talking about a mindset change,” she said. “I think that me showcasing a different kind of leadership is the most important thing.”
Hawaii’s government, she said, “is pretty much status quo for everything.”
“Our state has gotten to the point where 16 years of waiting is acceptable,” she said.
Tupola, who served in the state House of Representatives from 2014 to 2018, representing District 43 (Ko Olina, Maili, Nanakuli on Oahu), wants to change that.
“We have to look for the kind of leader that’s going to be responsive, the kind of leader that’s going to be able to listen,” she said.
She referenced the standoff on Mauna Kea between protesters and government over the Thirty Meter Telescope.
“That’s a very in-your-face look at the way our government deals with issues. And that’s just one issue,” she said.
Tupola was on Kauai Friday night as well. She spoke about bullying to about 100 people at Kukui Grove Center during a program organized by Hale Opio Kauai.
“No matter where you go, you’re always going to have people that want to tear you down. No matter where you go, there will always be people there to discourage you, to tell you that you can’t, that you don’t have enough skills, that you’re the wrong person,” she said. “So tonight, I’m going to teach you how to armor up.”
She called a few keiki to the front and asked them to raise their hands and shout their names.
“You gotta be proud of every part of who you are,” Tupola said. “Every part of who you are makes up a unique person who deserves respect and deserves to be loved.”
The crowd cheered and applauded when a young boy grabbed the microphone and said, “My name is Shane and I’m from Kauai.”
Tupola, upbeat and smiling, called on parents to encourage their children.
“Tell them who they are, tell them where they’re from, tell them they should be proud,” she said.
Positive self-talk is important, too, she said.
Words of affirmation helped Tupola when she decided to run her first marathon in Honolulu. At the time, she was overweight (she got to 260 pounds when she had her oldest daughter) and had not been running.
“You know what was the hardest part? Believing that I could do it because I had never done it before. I had never run 26 miles in my life,” she said.
But she believed, she trained, and she finished.
“I ran 26 miles and I lived,” she said, laughing. “It was amazing.”
“Everything was in my head. Whatever I thought, that’s what I achieved,” she said. “Whatever you’re thinking, that’s what you’re going to get in life.”
And the final aspect of armoring up was building others up.
“Encouraging others lifts you up,” Tupola said.
Words matter, she said, so be careful what you say.
“The words that you say can be forgiven, but they’re rarely forgotten,” she said.
She called on young and old to support each other, “because that’s what builds strong communities.”
Tupola remains busy.
Her days are filled with conference calls and meetings. She’s finishing her doctorate degree in music at the University of Hawaii (she formerly taught music at Leeward Community College) and continues to operate her nonprofit foundation, whose vision is to “Empower Hawaii.”
She and husband Tavo, a police officer, keep up with their two daughters, Talitha, 12, and Cumorah, 11.
An avid runner, she has completed two marathons, and if she recovers from a torn meniscus suffered earlier this year, she might run the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 8.
One change she and her family are making is how she will be campaigning.
In the 2018 governor’s race, Tupola usually traveled alone.
“It was kind of like my thing,” she said. “A lot of people wanted to know who’s my husband, who are my children. They were rarely with me.”
This time around, her daughters will be with her more often, and if her husband isn’t working, he’ll join them.
She said she needs her family on the road, and both daughters joined her for this trip to Kauai.
“I can’t keep doing this on my own,” Tupola said. “We decided after the election it was going to be our thing.”
The night of the 2018 election was a pivotal moment for Tupola.
As she gave her concession speech before her supporters, she looked at the families, keiki and teens listening to her.
She knew she wasn’t done.
“Am I really going to lead all these people into this place of hope and then just leave them there?” the 38-year-old asked. “Look at what I created. I gave all these people these thoughts that there could be a better Hawaii with a younger leader, a Samoan/Hawaiian woman. I can’t just walk away from this.”
The next day, she sat down with her family. People, she said at the time, would be asking about her plans.
“I don’t want to hem and haw. I don’t want to come into 2021, wondering ‘Hey, should we do this again?’ That will be too late.”
As a family, despite the sacrifices they made in the last campaign, they decided to go after the governor’s seat again.
“We talked about us realigning,” Tupola said. “We made it more of a comprehensive effort.”
She plans to continue to visit the islands and held her first 2022 fundraiser on Kauai.
She believes she can do a better job of rallying support on the neighbord islands.
“The difference between getting a voter and an investor is huge,” Tupola said.
She said Kauai accounts for about 6% of the vote she needs, which means she should visit about 16 days a year.
So, count on seeing Andria Tupola more.
“From now until 2022, I’ve got to be on this island at least 16 days or more every year, and that’s what I’ll be doing,” she said.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.