Majority Policy Leader, Hawaii House of Representa
Four Seasons Hotel Worker, Spa and Fitness
Liliha Neighborhood Board, ASUH Student President
I fight for working families because I come from one. I was born and raised and come from at least seven generations on our beautiful islands. My Grampa Saito was a WWII veteran, my mother worked at Liberty House, and my father was an ILWU server at a hotel restaurant. My dad passed away when I was 11, leaving my mom to take care of four kids and my grandmother. She taught me the values of hard work and taking care of your family. I started working in the pineapple fields at 14 to help her pay the bills, then at Walmart and a resort to pay my own. My childhood also taught me that hard work isn’t always enough to get by. We relied on help from government assistance programs, our church, teachers, and community.
As a young father, things aren’t easy now for me and most of the people in my district. I spend 60% of my income on rent for a 1-bedroom apartment and student loans. 70% of my class from Kamehameha Schools has already left Hawaii and I worry about my son’s future here.
When I first ran for the State House, I was a 23-year-old Democrat running against a Republican incumbent in a Republican District. Star Advertiser predicted that I stood no chance, but we won by 26 percent. I did it by knocking on 15,000 doors while working full-time cleaning locker rooms at a resort. In the Legislature, I consistently advocated for equal rights for all, tenants’ rights, and protecting our environment. I was named Majority Policy Leader, the youngest leader in the State legislature, to set the House's Statewide priorities in a progressive direction.
Regardless of political consequences, I am not afraid to speak truth to power. Whether it’s standing up to Mark Zuckerberg building a wall around his sprawling compound and suing Native Hawaiian families, being the sole legislator to support the Pentagon’s proposed modest reduction of military presence in Hawaii, or taking issue with naming our major airport after an alleged serial rapist who happens to be a beloved late Senator and war hero, I do what I believe to be the right thing, no matter what retaliation follows.
If elected to Congress, I will take these values and work to Washington and fight for aloha for the people of Hawaii.
1. Every pressing issue facing our country today comes down to one thing: money in politics. We need to repeal Citizens United, stop the flow of seedy corporate money into politician’s hands, and reclaim our democracy from corporate interests. I am the only candidate in this race who has not taken a dollar from corporations or their lobbyists. Luxury developers, old boy lobbyists, and gun manufacturers have bought out our politicians. Hawaii needs medicare for all, student debt cancellation, tuition free college and trade school, and a green new deal. The majority of people support these ideas, but big money donors don't. America cannot move forward when our politicians are beholden to corporate interests instead of the people we represent. A better world is possible, but only if we demand change, and build a movement.
2. Hawaii is experiencing an affordable housing crisis that has resulted in my generation leaving the islands. People are tired of “affordable housing" proposals ghost-written by luxury developers. I’m the only candidate with a plan to actually solve our housing crisis. We need Housing for All.
Singapore is half the size of Oahu with 5.6 million residents. Most Singaporeans spend only 23 percent of their incomes for brand new three-bedroom units. Meanwhile, I, like many of my peers, pay over 40 percent of my income for a single bedroom apartment. Our housing status-quo is antiquated, inefficient, and immoral.
Congress should invest heavily in at-cost construction of social housing in high-need areas like Hawaii, while providing federal loans with 0% down payments everywhere. This would keep the country country, by making town a more robust and vibrant place to live. Modern tax stabilization and a Tenants Bill of Rights would protect renters from unjust evictions, stabilize rents, promote diverse communities, and ensure rental housing is truly affordable. Then we should levy a tax on vacant properties and luxury units worth over $2 million. Let’s start building for local need rather than out-of-state speculation.
America has enough wealth to live up to its word and provide every resident with
decent, dignified housing. Scarcity did not occur naturally; it was a political choice. Luxury developers, their corporate tenants, and price-gouging landlords have been buying out our politicians for decades. But when working people come together and demand change, Congress will be forced to act. Housing for All is possible, but only if we lead with the same conviction that brought forth the New Deal and deliver on America’s promise from generations ago.
3. Hawaii is on the frontline of climate change. Waikiki, the State’s driving economic engine, could be underwater in my son’s lifetime. The same goes for the neighborhood he grew up in. Hawaii has done a good job as a state in beginning to address climate change. I supported our successful measure to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2045. But, climate change is a global problem that will require American action and leadership to address. If elected to Congress, I would introduce or support legislation making America 100% renewable energy by 2035. The $1 trillion investment in clean energy and infrastructure through the Green New Deal would allow us to reboot our economy while taking bold action against climate change.
Climate refugees from atolls are already seeking refuge in the Pacific and Hawaii could well become the environmental migrant capital of the region. We need to be able to accommodate an influx of Pacific Islanders seeking a new home as a result of sea level rise.
In Congress, my first legislative priority would be to secure funding for Hawaii infrastructure and champion a bold progressive vision to ease costs for Hawaii residents. That’s why I’m championing a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal so that no infrastructure project will ever break the backs of Hawaii taxpayers again.
Hawaii residents are struggling with the cost of housing, health care, and education with low, stagnant wages. These issues are all fundamental rights that the American people and people in Hawaii have been deprived of for decades due to our government being controlled by corporate greed. In Congress, I will fight for Housing for all, Medicare for all, free pre-k through college, student loan forgiveness, abolishing ICE, and the Green New Deal that will pump $1 trillion into rebooting our economy to invest in our infrastructure for America to become 100% renewable energy by 2035. I have championed these new ideas from day one of this campaign, and have drummed up national attention from CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and more. Candidates all across America are now running on these ideas. I will continue to offer bold, fresh ideas and help build community-driven movements to fiercely advocate for working people in Hawaii.
I'm the only candidate with a clear, considertant progressive record of getting things done and offering new, bold ideas for Hawaii’s working families. I’m not jumping to the left and spinning my record to pander to progressive Democratic voters. I have always fought on the side of equality and fairness, even before my stances “polled well.”
I am the only candidate who openly supported marriage equality in 2013. I am the only candidate who has been a consistent, reliable champion of women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, the environment, Native Hawaiian rights, gun control, criminal justice reform, immigrant justice, income inequality, and our environment. As State Representative, I wrote and passed same-day voter registration which begins this year, I moved to regulate long-line fishing vessels after allegations of human trafficking, and I secured more school funding than any district in the State.
Our campaign has earned endorsements from organizations like the Elizabeth Warren affiliated Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the Bernie Sanders affiliated Our Revolution Hawaii, Democracy for America, 350 Action, Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, Food and Water Watch, The People for Bernie Sanders, Millenials for Revolution, National Nurses United, United Food and Commercial Workers, and Blue America, and more.
Most importantly, I am the only candidate who does not accept a single dollar form corporations and their lobbyists. That’s how you know I’ll never sell out. Our campaign has received a record 8,000 individual small dollar donations so far, averaging around $30. This race isn't about me or any of my oppoenents. We’re building a political revolution in Hawaii. Working people are rising up against the old boy elites who have held back change for too long.
Resisting Trump is easy and popular, but it’s not enough. So many of us have been struggling in Hawaii before 2016. We need representatives who will stand up to the big money interests holding back change right here in Hawaii. In fact, the same corporations who fund Trump also fund many Democrats. In this campaign, we’re breaking that cycle of systemic corruption completely, and offering bold ideas that will actually make a difference in our lives in the lives of people we love. I humbly ask for your vote on August 11.