2018 Primary Election Candidates

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KAPELA, Jeanne
Name on ballot:

KAPELA, Jeanne

Running for:

State House

District (if applicable):


Political party:


Campaign website:


Current occupation:

Executive Director, UNITE Hawaii



Previous job history:

Legislative Aide, Office of Rep. Nadine Nakamura; Co-Director, FAME Performing Arts Program; Dance Teacher, American Renaissance Academy

Previous elected office, if any:

I am a first time candidate, running to change the status quo.

What qualifies you to represent the people of Hawaii?

As a Native Hawaiian woman who came from poverty, I understand the challenges faced by working class families in Hawai'i. When I was young, my family couldn't afford fine things. Most weeks, we could barely afford to put food on the table and pay our bills. Our small farm was all we had, along with one another. Despite our financial hardship, though, we persisted, just like thousands of people across Hawai'i who strive, each day, to make ends meet.

It's easy to become cynical about the possibility of a better future, but I'm running to bring hope to those who need it most. In office, I will protect West Hawai’i’s iconic agricultural and coffee industries, ensure our keiki receive a quality education, and be a champion for hardworking families. I will sponsor legislation that advances prosperity for everyone and preserves our 'āina for generations to come, including proposals to raise the minimum wage, establish paid family leave, implement a statewide carbon tax, and increase funding for Hawai'i's public schools.

What are the top three challenges facing the voters you seek to represent?

The top three challenges facing the people of District 5 are Hawai'i's high cost of living, inadequate educational opportunities for our keiki, and our need to grow a sustainable future. Accordingly, I will work to raise the minimum wage, establish paid family leave for working families, increase affordable housing for those making 60 percent of area median income or less (those living at or near poverty), and ensure that people who decrease our housing supply by operating vacation rentals are fully taxed and regulated. Moreover, I support increasing funding for public education by establishing a surcharge on residential investment properties valued at one million dollars or greater, as well as instituting rate recapture for high earners, levying a surcharge on visitor accommodations, and increasing corporate taxes. Lastly, we must heavily invest in clean energy to meet our state's goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045, including by passing measures to expand use of transportation that runs on clean energy. Climate change is a threat to my district's agricultural community. We must implement innovative solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change immediately. Our planet can't afford to wait.

If elected, what will be your highest legislative priority?

My top priority in office will be building a sustainable and affordable future for our keiki and their families. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a full-time worker needs to earn $36.13/hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment in our state. At minimum wage, a person would need to work 143 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. While the cost of living in West Hawai'i is slightly lower than more urban areas of our islands, good-paying jobs remain scarce and access to affordable housing is limited.

To account for Hawai'i's high cost of living, we must provide a livable wage of at least $21/hour by 2021, with future increases pegged to the consumer price index. Additionally, it is imperative that we establish a paid family leave program based on a social insurance model for working families, so that people no longer have to choose between carrying out their jobs and caring for their keiki and kupuna. Finally, we have to invest in truly affordable housing by increasing the number of affordable units developers must build before receiving tax credits and floating $2 billion in general obligation bonds to subsidize affordable housing construction.

If elected, what can you do to improve the lives of your constituents?

I will seek funding for three projects that will immediately improve the lives of my constituents. First, I will work to launch a water incubator for areas of West Hawai'i that lack access to a consistent water supply, like Ocean View. It will be operated as a think-tank and startup incubator organized to bring the brightest governmental, scientific, and entrepreneurial minds together to push the boundaries of water-related technology and water access. Second, I am committed to building a 21st Century school in Ocean View with a Native Hawaiian cultural focus, so that West Hawai'i's children can receive a quality, culturally-sensitive education without having to travel long distances. Third and finally, I believe that we must increase healthcare facilities in West Hawai'i, which currently lacks adequate medical resources to respond to emergencies in outlying communities.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

If elected, I will be the first Native Hawaiian woman to represent State House District 5. I will always put people's needs before corporate greed and champion the working families upon whom our economy is built. I'm proud to be endorsed by the Hawai'i State Teachers Association, ILWU Local 142, Hawai'i State AFL-CIO, Operating Engineers Local 3, Planned Parenthood, and Hawai'i Children's Action Network Speaks. I will honor that support, each day, by working to replace the status quo with a politics of aloha that meets the needs of everyone who calls Hawai'i home.

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