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Green to run for lieutenant governor; Kanuha will seek state senator’s seat

By Cameron Miculka; West Hawaii Today; September 2, 2017

KAILUA-KONA — Sen. Josh Green, who has represented Kona and Ka‘u in the state Senate for close to a decade, announced Friday his candidacy for lieutenant governor.

County Councilman Dru Kanuha, meanwhile, announced his candidacy for Green’s current seat.

Green, a physician, launched his campaign by calling for a “day of service” and asking his supporters to spend time this Labor Day weekend volunteering.

Green spoke to West Hawaii Today from the Institute for Human Services, a nonprofit focused on ending and preventing homelessness in the state, in Honolulu. He said in the release announcing his candidacy that he would spend the day as a volunteer doctor, providing medical services to homeless people in Honolulu, and would continue those efforts today at the West Hawaii Community Health Center in Kona.

The senator said he had been considering a bid for higher office for a while and made the decision after spending the past three months traveling the state and meeting with residents.

“When I have those intimate conversations with people, they say what you’d expect them to say in some ways,” he said. “They’re worried that they need a higher living wage to survive in Hawaii and to afford housing. They say that they want to make sure that their health care benefits stay intact.

“They tell me that they can’t afford college and they need help with the loans, and they tell me that if we don’t solve this housing crisis, their kids are going to leave the islands.”

And while he said those have been issues central for him, hearing it from “hundreds and hundreds of people” raised within him a sense of urgency.

The state’s current lieutenant governor, Shan Tsutsui, previously has said it’s “pretty certain” he won’t seek another term, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Green was first elected to the state Senate in 2008 after serving two terms in the state’s House of Representatives.

And as lieutenant governor, he said he’ll still have the ability to provide his perspective as a doctor.

He added that he’s spoken to potential gubernatorial candidates and has “made it very clear that I am going to take the advocacy that I’ve begun to carve out as a state senator on homelessness and on health, and I’m going to be focused on that statewide if I’m given the honor to serve as lieutenant governor.”

“I’ve put my faith in people,” he added. “If they choose me, that is my role.”

And while he said launching a bid for the office from Kona might have been a challenge a decade ago, he thinks in his time in the Legislature he’s developed a positive reputation as an advocate for health on Oahu.

“I look at it as a great strength to be from the neighbor islands because all of the neighbor island communities know me to be a very serious advocate, as evidenced by my vote against the rail,” he said.

“I think that vote is going to reflect back and I have priorities for people, like health care and homeless solutions, more than others.”

Kanuha makes move

 

Kanuha also announced yesterday that he plans to run for the Senate seat Green has held representing Senate District 3.

The district was recorded as having 51,074 residents and 11,817 families in a 2012 report. The district had a median household income of close to $57,000 and a median rent of $1,131.

Also, 9.5 percent of the families living in the district were identified as living below the poverty level.

Kanuha, who has served on the County Council since 2012, said the experience has given him a different perspective to bring to the state Senate.

“You know, right now you see a lot of this controversy between state and county and the divisiveness that you’re seeing lately,” he said Friday. “And I think I could bring that value and the ability to say ‘You know what, state and county needs to work together because we represent all the same constituents.’”

Serving on a state level also would give him an opportunity to work on issues the county doesn’t have jurisdiction over, such as schools, ocean resources and tax issues — particularly the transient accommodations tax.

Kanuha added there also are issues he took up in the County Council that he wants to continue to champion on the state level.

“One of the main ones was homelessness,” he said, and referenced the establishment of the Hale Kikaha micro-housing project in the Old Kona Industrial Area to provide opportunities for housing. “So that advocacy can continue at the state level.

“The state really needs to put a lot of effort into this because it has been a main priority for our constituents on the county level. And, as Gov. (David) Ige stated when he had that emergency proclamation, it’s a very, very big part of the issues that the state is facing. So, to continue that to the state level is going to be of great importance.”

Kanuha also said he was passionate about issues related to water, land and agriculture.

Now, Kanuha said, he’s on a mission to meet the constituents of the district and listen to what they would want from a senator.

“You know, Kona and Ka‘u is pretty diverse,” he said. “So I want to make sure that I represent the wishes of both Kona and Ka‘u as strongly as possible on the state level.”

Kona, he said, is the island’s economic hub and dependent on tourism, and there are many workers in Ka‘u that commute to Kona and Kohala.

With that in mind, he said, it’s important to have solid infrastructure connecting the districts and build upon mass transit.

“We want to make sure that the rural community, the rural district of Ka‘u, can stay rural but be able to build upon their economic diversity,” he said.

“So that’s going to be a big issue — make sure that people have jobs.”

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