Marlene Hapai (R), State House Candidate, District 4

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Name: Marlene (Nachbar) Hapai

Current Job: Professor of Biology and Regent Emeritus University of Hawaii; Educational Consultant, Science FUNdamentals and Administrative Consulting for Institutional Advancement; Business Manager/Co-Owner, The Andrade Building, LLC.


Residence: Length of time in district: Bought property in 1974, built home in 1984, resident of Kurtistown since that time (26 years).

Background: What qualifies you for the position?  What else have you run for? Have you been in public office before and if so, what position?

It is time for those who have worked within the State system in critical positions, benefiting from its strengths and struggling with its weaknesses, to step forward and help get it back on track.  My 35-year career in Hawaii’s public education system as a middle/high school teacher, university professor and administrator, and University of Hawaii regent has provided me with valuable experience. Education uses one third of our $10 billion state operating budget making this experience vital to efficient budgeting.

Also, my background and work in the sciences (see website:, including directing the building of the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii and 25 years of Science Fair involvement has prepared me for important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative decisions needed to move our state technologically forward.  With additional experience in facilities and resource management, agriculture, small business and as a regent helping to manage 10% of the State’s budget, I am ready to effectively represent not only the 4th district, but all of Hawaii’s people.

This is my first time running for political office.  However, I was my husband’s campaign chair when he was elected to the State House in the 70’s and have helped him with campaigns. And we have supported many other good people who have run for office as we are firm believers in participating in the political process.  I have been in many other positions that have been directly affected by legislative decisions and feel being on both sides of the decision making process will help in making fair and effective decisions.

Major Issues: What are the biggest issues in your district/state and your proposed solutions? Basic health and safety issues continue to raise red flags in Hawaii’s Puna district as constituents travel the State’s deadliest roads due to lack of traffic lights, inadequate lighting, dangerous highway entrances and exits from its many subdivisions and unprecedented population growth. Alternative escape routes needed to evacuate from natural hazards and traffic infrastructure incorporated into all new development demand additional attention.  Upon being elected, I will seek immediate funding to address these issues (new CIP funding or reallocation of existing funds).  I will also work with the Puna Community Development Plan partners and convene a legislative task force to prioritize their recommended actions, hire a project manager and additional village center coordinators to insure progress, and assist in identifying additional public and private resources to address these needs.

I see the state of our economy being our greatest statewide concern and challenge.  The high rate of unemployment and home foreclosures are just two indicators deeply impacting many of Hawaii’s families.  I see a serious need to reassess how the state is spending its money and reprioritize and redistribute funds using a needs-based budgeting model.  

Budget Philosophy: The operating budget of the State of Hawaii has increased from $5 to 10 billion in the past twelve years.  The population has only increased a little over 100,000 in that same period of time.  There appears to be enough money to service Hawaii’s many needs and thus I see no need to either increase revenues through tax hikes or fees. However, this money needs to be redistributed using a needs-based/growth-related model that will look at state needs, identify departments servicing these needs and redistribute monies accordingly.  Also, all communities in the state need to be ranked as new, developing or mature and resources distributed proportionately, with new and developing communities receiving proportionately more to put in required infrastructure and mature communities receiving resources for maintenance and replacement. Resources would be redistributed as communities mature. This model would alleviate the many infrastructure problems many communities are dealing with today resulting from minimal resource input in their initial stages of development.

Taxes and Fees: Hawaii’s taxes should stay the same.  I have already signed a pledge to not vote for tax increases and as stated previously, I do not think this is necessary.

Rail: I have very mixed feelings on the whole rail issue as I have heard people speak for and against it. At this point in time when resources, revenues and jobs are short, I would have to really be convinced this rail is what is needed and would benefit enough of Hawaii’s people to make such a large investment.

Legalized Gambling: I am not in favor of legalized gambling in Hawaii as we have so many other attributes that are found nowhere else in the world that we can market and increase our revenue. There are too many negative social problems associated with this industry and I do not feel the cost of these is worth the increased revenue.

Public Education: Hawaii’s educational system has much potential and before we consider replacing it with other models, changes can be made guaranteeing improvement.  I propose three major changes that could positively impact this system.  First, one of education’s major problems is there is no official connection between our lower and higher education departments and our executive branch of government.  All other departments are represented on the Governor’s cabinet, but education (which uses one-third of the State’s budget). I propose placing both the DOE State Superintendent and the UH President (or a comparable representative) on the Governor’s cabinet.  Many of education’s problems could be avoided by this direct communication. Second, a change in how the Board of Education is selected could make a difference in the quality of decisions made on behalf of lower education.  I propose adopting the previous model used to select members for the University’s Board of Regents in which interested parties submitted applications to be considered to the Office of Boards and Commissions, the Governor nominated individuals best suited to the position and the Senate confirmed these nominations.  This process insures qualified individuals are selected.  Third, I recommend the DOE consider re-doing their budget using a bottom-up model where needs of teachers and students in the classroom are met first and higher levels of support then put in place to champion their needs.  The historic top-down model of budgeting has consistently (both in higher and lower education) left the classrooms receiving less than what they need (what’s left!).

Economic Growth: What are your plans to promote long-term economic growth for Hawaii? I propose using a managed growth and development model for Hawaii’s future. The use of wise resource management can lead to greater productivity and increased revenue, an increase in small businesses (who serve as our economic backbone) and more jobs. I see our growth in the following areas that would generate more revenue and more jobs and would seek funding to help these areas flourish:

  • Agriculture (diversified, niche, value-added)/Agri-tourism
  • Eco-tourism  preservation and celebration of cultural and historic sites and the natural environment (flora, fauna, geology, ocean sites)
  • Human Services  affordable housing projects, elderly care homes, affordable health care facilities
  • Sustainable Energy  solar, geothermal, wind, water
  • Technology  diversifying our technology base and opening Hawaii to global possibilities in economic, educational and diplomatic partnerships

I also propose the development of a needs-based budget incorporating a growth-related community funding model for more equitable distribution and to be pro-active instead of re-active in putting in needed infrastructure at the onset of development, instead of having to solve major problems created from ignoring these needs.

Crime: What is your solution to making Oahu a safer place to live and visit?

I would look at New York City’s model created by Mayor Giuliani that was successful and look for elements that would work here. Also I would seek programs or practices that show community awareness of their neighbors and surroundings. When others know who you are, it does away with the anonymity principle (if people don’t know who you are you can get away with anything.)  We may also want to create visitor awareness flyers or brochures of the Dos and don’t’s In Paradise.  Some may say this will hurt tourism, but most people have spots in the communities that they come from that they would recommend their company not visit.  We just need to warn them diplomatically.

Second Amendment: As the second amendment grants us the right to bear arms, I would support legislation allowing greater freedom to law abiding firearms owners.

Homeless: What is your solution to homelessness? Poverty and homelessness are social and community issues. There are many programs in place that are successful and could be given greater support.  We need to know what they are, what support they can presently provide and make sure those needing help know where to go.  We also need to develop programs that give these individuals hope for their futures, possibly a Pathway to Employment program that recognizes each individual’s capabilities, and provides training and beginning jobs that lead to jobs with greater responsibilities. This will not only provide hope, but raise their self esteem and make them feel good about themselves and who they are.  We also need to work on programs for homeowners to make wise financial moves to eliminate foreclosures leading to greater homelessness in our state, as well as secure unused homes for homeless placement.

Compact with Micronesia: I have had the opportunity to teach and live in Yap for a short period of time in the mid 80’s.The monthly wages of the natives were $70-$80 per month at that time. In order for them to send their children to school here they would need to save for years to afford the airfare and costs. It only stands to reason that they have figured out that if they move here they can afford both education and other services with the higher wages provided in Hawaii. This also provided them with residency enabling them to attend the University of Hawaii at resident rates.  In their native countries, they know how to farm the land and harvest from the ocean.  Although their wages are low, they do not need to buy much. If the federal government chooses not to provide resources as per the agreed upon compact, it would best to provide comparable educational opportunities and medical services in each Micronesian state eliminating or minimizing the need to go elsewhere.

Akaka Bill: The Akaka Bill provides an opportunity for Native Hawaiians to govern themselves and determine their destiny as the indigenous people of our state.  Whether it unites or divides Hawaii will be determined by those who represent each governing body and their willingness to work collaboratively toward a decided upon common goal. By giving Native Hawaiians control over their lands, culture and way of life, this bill has the potential of having a very positive impact on the Native Hawaiian population and the entire state of Hawaii.  If they feel good about who they are this will permeate throughout everything they do to include interactions within their new government and the state and federal governments.

Jones Act:  The Jones Act is one example of why it costs so much to live in Hawaii. I would support an exemption for Hawaii as we are geographically isolated from the continental  U.S. and this exemption would equalize our opportunity to receive goods from other countries at lower rates comparable to what other states in close proximity to one another are able to supply to each other.

Endorsements:  Hawaii State Teachers Association

Additional Comments:

My platform addresses the urgency to reform the legislature, economy and education with a reduction in legislature size improving efficiency and reducing cost; establishing term limits allowing fresh ideas to surface; and eliminating closed-door meetings by applying the Sunshine Law.  Economically, I will work toward adopting a balanced need-based budget incorporating a growth-related community funding model for more equitable distribution and reduce health care costs.  I will also support development of a collaborative  DOE public, charter and private school model incorporating the strengths of each to meet the needs of all Hawaii’s students. With 40 years in Hawaii’s educational system, work in agriculture and small business and experience as a regent helping manage 10% of the State’s budget, I am ready to put this to work for all Hawaii’s people.

Contact Information:

Phone: 808-966-9894


Mail:  P.O. Box 413

Kurtistown, HI 96760

Website address:

 Campaign Slogan:  Putting People First