HONOLULU (KHON2) — With Hawaii’s election just a few days away, this week KHON2 is getting to know the Democratic candidates for governor. Tonight we catch up with Vicky Cayetano.
Staff members said they struggle to keep up with former first lady Vicky Cayetano’s energy on the campaign trail.
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“It’s a privilege to get to see all of the people on every island, different communities, see the need and really be able to make their lives better,” Cayetano said. “That to me is what public service is all about, is making people’s lives better.”
The former first lady said one of the things that will make her an effective governor is that she’s not looking for the next job. While campaigning for the first time she said she’s heard a consistent theme.
The 66-year-old spent eight years in the governor’s mansion during her husband Ben Cayetano’s run as governor from 1994 to 2002.
“I wouldn’t call it experience because there’s nothing like being in the seat itself but I will say I was privileged to have a front row seat to see what it takes,” Cayetano said.
She was also a successful business owner, founding United Laundry Services where she employed 600 people over 34 years.
“Common sense, practical solutions, all 34 years I’ve led with transparency accountability and a real sense of customer service,” Cayetano said.
Outside of her long hours spent campaigning, Cayetano likes to spend free time with her eight dogs at home. Seven of them sleep with her while one sleeps with the former governor, who said he’s not involved with the campaign.
Cayetano would like to stand alone as her own candidate and wants to see more women participating in Hawaii politics.
“I feel it genuinely lends itself to women. I think it would be great to see more female candidates on the road campaigning for leadership in government,” Cayetano said.
A large part of the platform she’s running on is to provide more affordable housing, which she hopes to accomplish through removing red tape like bloated permitting.
“One of the concerns I have with affordable housing is you really gotta look at the root of the problem which is the whole permitting and planning process. If we don’t address that chokehold we’ll never be able to accelerate the progress of affordable housing,” Cayetano said.
But where to build? With NIMBY holding back many projects locally, she said she’s willing to listen to community concerns but also go through with a project if she thinks it’s best.
“The first step is always to have an open mind and any leader should be there having those conversations with their community to understand what the resistance is. It’s not legitimate then it’s the leader’s job to let them know why we need to go forward with it,” Cayetano said.
When it comes to COVID and healthcare in general, she wants to attack the nursing shortage that led to Hawaii having a limited number of hospital beds during surges of the pandemic.
“Shortage of physicians, healthcare personnel that just became much more visible with COVID but the fact is we’ve been struggling on Hawaii island since 2006 with shortage of personnel — 2006. It’s now 2022 the fact stands that we’ve been lagging with tackling these issues with urgency,” she said.
While these are long-standing problems in Hawaii that date back decades, Cayetano said she can get it done.
“I’m very determined that we need to have those conversations so that we can resolve our problems and not just keep kicking the can down the road,” Cayetano said.
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Hawaii’s primary election is Saturday, with ballots needing to be in or voters needing to be in line at 7:00 p.m.