KAILUA-KONA — A small but enthusiastic contingent of Hawaii Island Republicans gathered at the West Hawaii Civic Center Friday night to get to know their party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, as well as to rally support for the conservative cause in Kona.
Before introducing the candidates, Hawaii Republican Party State Chair Shirlene Ostrov kicked off the night with a speech to a couple dozen attendees, saying simply the party needs to learn how to win and the answers won’t be “sexy.”
“What we have to do is organize a grassroots,” she said. “We can have the best platform in the world, but if we don’t have anybody in those seats, it doesn’t matter.”
She bolstered spirits by mentioning low voter turnout in recent elections, saying political offices are more winnable than many believe.
“The party who is better organized, they’re going to win elections,” Ostrov continued. “And guess what? The Democrats are not even trying.”
Ray L’Heureux, for governor
A former assistant superintendent and retired major in the Marine Corps, L’Heureux served as pilot of Marine 1 under four presidents and has lived in Oahu for two decades, spending some of that time working at United States Pacific Command (PACOM).
L’Heureux boiled down his candidacy to three essential priorities — public education, infrastructure and a focus on improving Hawaii’s economy.
Opposed to onerous taxes, his governing theory isn’t to do more with less, but to get more out of what the state already has.
“If I’m going to be taxed in one of the heaviest-taxed states in the country, what am I getting?” he asked.
L’Heureux named the huge pots of money dedicated to education and to health care, which he said can be drastically reduced. He’d begin his term as governor with a fiscal transparency audit to recycle government waste where he could find it.
“I could probably go into the Department of Education tomorrow and just find $20 million sitting on a shelf somewhere for an unused program,” L’Heureux said.
As for his views on how he’ll fare in a largely Democratic state election, L’Heureux was optimistic.
“I think there is a message we can deliver that will resonate and transcend parties,” he said.
John Carroll, for governor
Pushing 90 yeas old, Carroll is a long-time resident of Oahu with ties to the Big Island, where he owns a farm in Holualoa and where several of his family members reside in Kona.
The Korean War veteran and former Air Force pilot also served four terms in the Hawaii state House of Representatives, as well as one term in the state Senate.
Carroll said his platform will be centered around reducing Hawaii’s cost of living, first by overturning what he described as onerous shipping restrictions imposed by the Jones Act.
He said he also immediately intends to take the Oahu rail project and everyone behind it to task.
“If I’m governor, I’m going to stop the construction of the rail and ask for a forensic audit from the federal government so we know where every dime came from, where it went to, and what we got for it,” he said. “And if people have to go to jail based on what we find, then so be it.”
Carroll also has the Hawaiian Homes Commission in his sights and said he would strip lands being used by corporations and return them to native Hawaiians.
Like L’Heureux, Carroll is concerned with government spending. He wants an immediate audit of every state job to evaluate its efficacy and cost.
“I can guarantee you, we are going to emasculate the state government,” he said.
Carroll would also prioritize higher salaries for teachers and developing a system of bike paths across all islands.
As to his chances in the general election, Carroll, who has run three times for the seat, put it bluntly.
“I might be a loser, but I’m not a quitter,” he laughed.
Steve Lipscomb, for lieutenant governor
A former major in the Air Force and winner of a Bronze Star for his service in the Middle East, Lipscomb and L’Heureux worked “6 feet away from each other” at PACOM for two years.
Despite running separate campaigns, the two see themselves as a team with the ability to move the state in a new direction. In the process, they plan to bring more clout to the position of lieutenant governor.
“We see a reinvention of that position to make sure that it’s much more value-added,” Lipscomb said.
He broke down his platform to what he called “The Three E’s” — the economy, education and the environment. His views on those issues mirror L’Heureux’s in several meaningful ways.
As for the Democrat-dominated political system in Hawaii, Lipscomb implored voters to look past their party and instead assume a different view.
“Monopolies are bad for everybody but those who own the monopoly,” he explained. “When there’s a perceived monopoly, government goes in and breaks it up. When the government has the monopoly, it’s up to we the people to go in and break it up.”
Marissa Kerns, lieutenant governor
A business owner, mother of two and wife to a veteran, Kerns pulled no punches around priorities she described as job security, boosting the economy via small business initiatives and the safety of Hawaii.
“This is a rogue campaign,” she said. “And my attitude is we need to deregulate, disturb, disrupt, roll back and decentralize.”
Having worked in shipping for several decades, Kerns said opening a small business in Hawaii is like a death sentence because of the cronyism for large, established interests she believes reigns throughout the state.
“Democrats have nothing really to offer for low-income people or, I would say, veterans,” she said. “And not for senior citizens and, of course, not for small businesses. They ignored us.”
She said the rail project is a primary example of current leadership failures.
“The leadership, they don’t have it,” Kerns said.
Andria Tupola is a third candidate for governor but was unable to attend Friday.