Nishioka, Nadine


Nadine Nishioka Bids for Public Office in Hawaii

Spring 2004 “Politics” Issue

Former JETAA Hawaii President Nadine Nishioka is running for State Legislature in Hawaii. As far as we know, this is the highest office ever sought by any JET alumni. The Newsletter caught up with Nadine to ask her about how her JET experience and upbringing in Hawaii led her to pursue a career in public service.

JETAANY Newsletter:  How did you get involved in politics?

Nadine Nishioka:  Although my family always had an interest in politics, I personally never really had any interest in it other than casting my vote for whichever candidate I believed had my best interest in mind.  And now, I will be making my second run for office.

Two years ago, the Republican Party contacted me to run for office because the seat would be vacated. I originally had no desire to seek political office but decided to make a run for the seat because I believed our district would otherwise be inadequately represented.  I received over 40% of the votes and decided it was too close to not try again this time.

I have been an active volunteer in my community and am a neighborhood board member.  I am also a board member on three prominent non-profit organizations dedicated to the people of this state.  I have lived in my community for over 35 years and although I lived in Japan while on the JET Program and later as a private consultant, I remained a tax-paying citizen of Hawaii and my community.

However, the number one reason why I am running again is because Hawaii’s legislators no longer have the interest of the people in mind. It has become an extremely partisan driven legislature and change is needed.

JN: Is it difficult running as a Republican in a traditionally Democratic state?
NN: Yes, we are traditionally a very Democratic state.  However, most of the “Plantation Democrats” have conservative values and many citizens of Hawaii are quite disappointed with how their party no longer represents the majority views, values, and integrity of this state. There needs to be a two party system. Hawaii residents have spoken by electing the first Republican governor in 40 years.  However, the Democrat majority in both the Senate and the House have been extremely partisan in cutting off the governor’s executive power in many “new” pieces legislation introduced this past session. It has left many people angry, including myself.

I know Democrat and Republican have certain meanings on the Mainland.  But as Tip O’Neill used to say, “All politics is local.”  In Hawaii, the dynamics of Democrat and Republican are very different.  This by no means is an indication that we here in Hawaii are ignorant of issues nationwide.  Certainly many Democrats and Republicans here in Hawaii share the view of their national counterparts. But speaking for myself, I am a moderate Republican who was brought up with Hawaii’s democratic values, ethics and integrity instilled in me by my great grandparents, grandparents and parents.

JN: Do you have a role model?
NN: My role model is Ronald Reagan. During our GOP State convention two weeks ago, it was sadly announced that President Reagan had passed away.  I had to give a speech right after the announcement of his passing and although it was difficult, I paid tribute to President Reagan in an impromptu speech talking about how he inspired me to become a Young Republican while attending college in Massachusetts. Though I came from a fairly Democrat-oriented family (my third cousin is Senior Senator Daniel Inouye), I was impressed with President Reagan’s sincere appreciation for the country he lived in and how he treated people with respect equally regardless of race, religion, education or economic status.

JN: What are your goals?
NN: My political goal is an easy one. Stay committed to the constituents in my district and the people of this State.  When a “politician” becomes too involved with him/herself, they become too self-absorbed in moving up the political ladder and making political connections to “take care” of them when they retire from their political life.  I have no desire to be a “politician.” We have too many of them as is. My goal and desire is to be a Statesperson. (I believe there is a significant difference between the two ). I would like to break the current stereotype of what a legislator is and does; hence, my job will be to represent the best interests of my constituents. I am seeking a seat in the House of Representatives so that I can do just that, represent everyone in my district equally and with respect to their needs.

JN: What are some of the issues facing your district?
NN: “Ice” or Methamphetamine, is a major problem in our state. Although I live in a middle- to upper-income area of this state, it is very evident that the “ice epidemic” is moving into all neighborhoods, regardless of race, religion, or economic status. Many residents in my district are unaware that there is a problem in our own communities and action must and needs to be taken immediately.

Education is always a major issue of any election, and this year’s election is no exception.  Money is continuously wasted on things other than the children and their basic and specific needs (i.e., books, tables, chairs, etc.).  “Megan’s Law” and the Rape Shield are other highly significant issues prevalent in this election.

JN: Has your JET experience been relevant?
NN: Because Hawaii has a strong Asian influence, my experience on the JET Program has enhanced my ability to understand and work with people of all cultures.  As I have said time and time again, Hawaii JETs’ are fortunate to live in a State where Japanese customs are practiced on a daily basis regardless of race or ethnicity.  Additionally, like my experience planning and teaching classes on JET, running a campaign is extremely hard work and takes a lot of patience and dedication from everyone involved. Working together is the key to success, which was the goal while I was on the JET Program, and is the key to victory on November 2.

JN: Has your work with the JET Alumni Association been helpful?
JN: Yes, some JET alums have helped with the campaign, and occasionally I’ll meet someone who says “Hey, I was on the JET Program” or “My son just started on the JET Program.”  But since JET and the Japan Society are non-political organizations, I want to make clear that I do not seek assistance from them.

Some JET alums have helped with canvassing and with “sign waving,” which is a unique political tradition in Hawaii.  Throughout the state, candidates and their supporters stand on busy intersections and streets waving their campaign signs.  It sounds like a traffic hazard, but it is an accepted tradition (for the most part).  Supporters wear t-shirts with the candidate’s name, and the candidate wears a suit with a lei.  I go out there rain or shine.

My involvement with JET, however, is only one part of my long-time involvement with community service.  In addition to my work with JETAA and with the Japan Society, I’ve volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club for many years, and I serve on the Board of Directors for Hawaii Literacy, the Lions’ Club, and the Community Center, which serves over 30,000 citizens.  It’s through this work that people in my community know me.

JN: Is there anything else you would like to add?
NN: I do not want, nor is it my intention, to offend anyone’s views or opinions.  I respect each individual’s beliefs, and I thank JETAA Newsletter and its readers for the opportunity to share my reasons for entering the political arena and sharing my political aspirations and motivation here in Hawaii.

Aloha and Mahalo,

Nadine Nishioka
Candidate, State House of Representatives, District 24 (R)

Want to keep up on Nadine’s progress?  Check out starting in July.

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