Still a lot of work to be done, says Carroll

In her bid to be elected to a sixth term, state Rep. Mele Carroll said she wants to continue her work in the Legislature, tackling issues including homelessness and child welfare.

“I’m running because there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Carroll, who is chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee. “I have so much passion around issues surrounding human services.”

She is facing a primary election challenge from Molokai native and business owner Barbara Haliniak.

“My years of commitment, my energy and love for our communities are what drive me to succeed,” said Haliniak, who lists her credentials as founder of the Molokai Professional Women’s League and Molokai Island Foundation. “I am not afraid to speak up to get the job done, and I am proud of my record that speaks for itself.”

With no other candidates in the race, the winner of the Democratic primary will be elected to the House District 13 seat that includes East Maui, Lanai and Molokai.

Carroll, 50, of Haiku has held the seat since 2005, when she was appointed after Sol Kaho’ohalahala’s resignation.

At one time, Carroll said she had thought about retiring after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She is in remission.

“My doctor actually convinced me to stay,” she said. “He felt I should continue what I’m doing because I have empathy for people that can’t speak for themselves.

“My district is one of the hardest to serve because it’s the canoe district. I have built so many relationships with many people. A lot of people have asked me to run again.”

If re-elected, Carroll said she wants to create a community task force, including churches and other organizations, to seek innovative solutions to address the issues surrounding homelessness. She would start with a task force on Maui and expand it to include the rest of the district.

“The one thing that I’m really passionate about – and I see it everywhere – is homelessness,” Carroll said. “We are one paycheck away from becoming homeless, regardless of if we’re renting or if we own a home.

“A lot of people are struggling. I’ve had so many people knock on my door and ask for help. We don’t have programs that can help people who have worked all of their life and one member of their family has a heart attack, for example, and they become homeless.”

Haliniak, 72, of Kaunakakai said she is running to “bring a different kind of leadership to the seat, one that will engage the community directly to face the challenges in their respective area and to solicit suggested solutions, because the people living in each district know their local issues best.”

“We need to take back government for ‘we the people,'” she said by email.

Haliniak said she is not seeking endorsements or campaign contributions.

When she was president of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, Haliniak said she petitioned the Public Utilities Commission to suspend and hold public hearings on Young Brothers’ application to discontinue pallet shipping at all state ports. She said she also “got Young Brothers to agree to a 12 percent rate increase for Molokai and Lanai” instead of the 25 percent general rate increase the company sought. “I fought for my community, which already suffers from a higher cost of living,” she said.

Haliniak also took credit for getting Transportation Security Administration contractor Lockheed Martin to Molokai and Lanai to issue Coast Guard security ID cards for unescorted port entrance so business owners saved the cost of having to travel off island to get the certification.

“I sent letters to our legislative representatives identifying these challenges and problems, but did not receive any help,” Haliniak said.

But Carroll said she did respond to Haliniak’s request and even provided a staff member to help Haliniak. Carroll said she always sends letters when there are rate increase requests affecting the district before the PUC.

“Because my district is huge, it’s not always easy for me to be everywhere,” Carroll said. “With technology, I’m able to communicate with my constituents.”

Many of the bills she introduces result from constituents’ requests for help, Carroll said. She said she has worked closely with constituents on capital improvement project requests, including securing $2.25 million for a facility for the Molokai campus of the University of Hawaii/UH-Maui College.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at

* Editor’s note – This story is a series of stories this week covering contested election races for state and county political offices. The primary election is Saturday. Winners advance to the Nov. 4 general election.