Andria Tupola, a BYU graduate and House Minority Leader for the state, is running for Hawaii state governor and seeking to improve the economy and quality of life for all residents of Hawaii. Her message to BYU-Hawaii students is to follow their desire to serve and to do whatever they can to help their communities.
“What life events got you here?”
Tupola spoke fondly on the experiences that steered her toward her career in public service as she recalled her religious mission to Venezuela and on how it “opened [her] eyes to how the philosophies of government can affect an entire country.”
“It was an unforgettable experience. I returned back to Hawaii and was inspired to empower our local communities to become self-reliant and not dependent on the government. I decided to run for the State House of Representatives in 2014 and won as a first-time candidate against an 8-year sitting incumbent.”
She further commented, “I’ve been blessed by my experience with the 43rd District, and I will take the lessons and experiences I have gained from BYU and my post-graduate years and continue serving Hawaii as governor.”
District 43 covers Ewa Villages, Kalaeloa, Honokai Hale, Nanakai Gardens, Ko Olina, Kahe Point, Nanakuli, Lualualei, Maili according to hawaii.gov
Speaking on her time as representative of District 43, Tupola said, “My vision as a representative has been written on my office wall for the past four years: to serve the people of District 43 by rolling up our sleeves, going the extra mile, and staying committed to loving our community.
“During my four years of service, I became very aware of the deeply rooted systemic issues we have throughout the state.
“I realized that people throughout the state were starting to lose hope that things could get better. I realized that these issues affect hundreds of thousands of people and was affecting our ability to continue to live in Hawaii.”
“What are some changes you’d like to bring to the state?”
When asked what actions she’d take as governor, Tupola replied, “We need to address the cost of living, unfunded liability, housing, homelessness, jobs, and education now at the administrative level, and then empower the communities and leaders to be a part of the solution. My vision as governor is to help more local families stay here for generations to come, and build a Hawaii where more people can call home for generations to come.
“My highest priority is to improve the economy and quality of life in our state. So that our residents not only survive here, but actually thrive here with a better education system, business environment, and greater opportunities to afford their own homes.”
Tupola outlined the key things she plans to do:
1. HOUSING: Decrease the cost of living so families are housed ● Decrease taxes and pension liability ● Support local developers, local jobs, and reduce permitting time ● Improve access to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and use underutilized resources to provide more housing for beneficiaries
2. EDUCATION: Improve the quality of life by being a champion for education and underserved communities ● Ensure equitable funding for all public school students, including rural and charter schools ● Retain and sustain our teachers through better salary, medical benefits, and classroom resources ● Audit, evaluate, and streamline Department of Education facilities, resources, and procedures
3. JOBS: Create an atmosphere for local businesses to thrive so more people can stay in this place we call home for generations to come ● Decrease corporate tax and unnecessary regulation ● Increase access to capital grants and build local partnerships ● Increase vocational training for high schools and community colleges to connect more local families with available job opportunities.
On Oct. 15, a live debate between Tupola and incumbent Governor David Ige was broadcast.
One viewer question asked by Wilma Flint said, “Would you consider looking into bringing back the super-ferry or a similar form of transportation for islanders?”
Tupola answered, “Yes, I think that we desperately need another form of transportation. The cost of airfare is going up, seeing as we have less inter-island flights. I think specifically in regards to the super-ferry making sure there is a better financial model, most ferry systems across the United States need federal subsidies to keep them going, and that’s what we need to do. One a better business plan, two make sure things were actually correct during the EIS process and three making sure we have enough of those federal subsidies through the department of public transportation harbors, a marine highway within our state.”
Ige’s turn to answer was next, “Absolutely. We are in the process of doing a better economic study as we speak. I had designated and gotten approval from the federal marine highway system to declare the transit routes between the islands as a federal marine highway, which is the first step to allow us to get access to a federal subsidy. Andria is absolutely right, when you look at the economics of a super-ferry program, it cannot be economically viable on its own and we will pursue getting a federal subsidy to support a super-ferry between the islands. I think most importantly we need to ensure that we do the environmental studies to make sure that it does not impact our environment.”
The next viewer question was from Lisa Anderson who asked, “Due to the significant increase in accidents this year, what will you do to make our roads safer on Oahu from impatient and inattentive drivers and pedestrians and how will you go about doing this?”
Ige had the first answer and said, “I have promoted pedestrian safety and safety on our highways as a number one priority. We are actually taking a portion of the highway funds and investing it in the complete streets model to make sure that we can make our roadways and highways as safe as possible. We have a very active pedestrian safety campaign. We’ve even engaged the girl scouts and they do mentoring and educational programs all across the community to talk about pedestrian safety and remind pedestrians as well as drivers to keep attentive, stop being on your cellphones whether you're a pedestrian or a driver and be safe wherever you go.”
Tupola was next to answer and she remarked, “You know the reality is that our state highways are way too dangerous in rural areas. We actually had another fatality just a few weeks ago in Waianae and this is because the state has remained unresponsive in lighting these crosswalks. We have 26 unsignalized crosswalks across Waianae and we made a program to actually utilize pedestrian flags, however, this was in intrum because we are waiting for the state to actually do what we need which is light these crosswalks. And across the north shore as well as in some of these rural areas on this island and other islands people are asking that the state be more responsive that if there's a fatality then immediately address it... I do think that we need to step up our game in making sure that these crosswalks are lit and safe and I’m committed to doing that.”
“How does your Republican stance influence your goals?”
Running as a Republican candidate, Tupola shared her perspective on the necessity of the two-party system and the benefits it gives to the state.
“Having a two-party system is ideal for healthy discourse so we create an environment where policy ideas may be debated. It may also be improved which will then help more local families stay here for generations to come. We cannot solve the systemic issues of our state with the same mindset in which they were created.”
On her goals as governor for working with the budget, she said, “Being fiscally conservative, I believe in cutting waste within our government spending and utilizing all federal funding our state receives... for housing, roads, education, and high-need areas. I plan to remedy this issue. As governor, I will work with the administration and fight for what our state needs.”
When asked what final thoughts she had for students of BYU-Hawaii and the citizens in the local community, Tupola said, “As a BYU alumna, I am always reminded of the motto ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’ If you have the desire to serve, then go out and do whatever you can. Our best solutions lie within the community.
Sharing how she personally acted on her desire to serve, Tupola said how from being a music major in college, she “started a nonprofit that donates musical instruments to students in the Pacific.” She continued, “I served on the Maili-Nanakuli Neighborhood Board. I’ve organized events that address issues like homelessness, traffic, domestic violence, and more... you don’t have to be a politician to make a difference.”
Tupola closed by inviting inspired and dedicated individuals to join her by visiting her website at https://www.votetupola.com/volunteer.
“What’s it like working with Mrs. Tupola?”
Policy aide for Representative Tupola, Jackson Grubbe, a BYUH alumnus, said, “Rep. Tupola is truly an amazing person, not just in the sense that she's a quality human being, but that it amazes me how hard she works. She has superhuman energy.
"Andria is involved in the community. She’s always organizing town halls, cleanups, conferences, whatever. It’s been a privilege to work closely with her, and I know that she can bring serious change to Hawaii.”
Grubbe extended an invitation to others to join the team as he concluded, “If you're interested in political writing or social media and you want to get involved, you can email me at email@example.com or FB/IG message me."
“What are your views as a student on her campaign?”
Mapuana Tauala, a sophomore in political science from Aiea, Hawaii, expressed her admiration for Tupola and her campaign.
“I think Andria is doing a great job at raising awareness on voting and changing the mindset the people of Hawaii have with voting. We’re in a generation where the topic of politics is avoided simply because of the bickering and frustration we see and feel through the media. With Andria’s approach, it feels that she’s aiming for the bigger picture.”
Tauala then seconded the sentiment Grubbe made earlier on Tupola’s high energy as she said, “She has a great energy about her.”
On Tupola’s proposition for giving power back to the communities, Tauala said she agreed there is a need for a decentralized solution for specific issues cities face.
“Allowing the community to handle the problems in their own vicinity gives them an opportunity to exercise their talents and abilities, be personally involved and updated with plans and solutions, and it provides the people with a sense of pride and closeness which inhibits better care and consciousness of the final outcome of solutions.
“Our participation in the problems of our own community will only empower us. I believe it is a more efficient way to handle the problems we face.”
Asked about her thoughts on Tupola holding a degree in a discipline not related to political science, she remarked, “It definitely brings a sense of peace to my college-and-career-anxious soul that change can come from anywhere. In Andria’s case, it’s obvious to see that all it takes is a belief, a deep sense of passion and a willingness to act to cause change across a group of people.
“It’s truly inspiring to see the things that she’s doing, continues to do, and is willing to do for our people.”