Heidi Tsuneyoshi is a Republican politician who served on the Honolulu City Council from 2019 to 2023. Though her time in office was relatively brief, Tsuneyoshi left her mark on Hawaii politics and governance. This article will provide an overview of her background, political career, policy positions, and lasting impact.
Early Life and Education
Heidi Tsuneyoshi was born and raised in Hawaii. She spent most of her youth in Wahiawa on the island of Oahu. After graduating from high school, Tsuneyoshi attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she earned a degree in psychology.
After obtaining her bachelor’s, Tsuneyoshi went on to receive a master’s degree in social work from Hawaii Pacific University. Her educational background in psychology and social work would prove relevant to her future career interests.
Before entering politics, Heidi Tsuneyoshi pursued a career in social services and behavioral health. She worked as a behavioral health specialist helping children and families in need.
Tsuneyoshi later took on a role as the statewide coordinator for a child abuse prevention program. This position allowed her to develop leadership skills and make connections throughout Hawaii’s human services sector.
Honolulu City Council
In 2019, Heidi Tsuneyoshi successfully ran for a seat on the Honolulu City Council representing District 2.
Tsuneyoshi campaigned on traditional conservative principles of lowering taxes, supporting small businesses, and reducing government regulation. Her experience as a social worker also informed her priorities around homelessness, mental health services, and affordable housing.
Tsuneyoshi won her election against her Democratic opponent by a sizable margin. Her victory highlighted growing Republican support even in heavily Democratic Hawaii.
Time in Office
As a city council member, Tsuneyoshi sat on committees focused on parks, housing, and transit. She advocated for upgrading Honolulu’s park system and improving access to mental health treatment.
However, Tsuneyoshi also opposed tax increases to fund new services. She preferred to reallocate existing funds over raising taxes on residents and businesses. This put her at odds with other council members at times.
During her one term on the council, Tsuneyoshi spearheaded efforts to:
- Streamline the permitting process for small businesses
- Create a dedicated fund for park improvements and maintenance
- Expand mental health and substance abuse services through partnerships with local non-profits
- Increase funding for homeless outreach programs
While she had some success, Tsuneyoshi was unable to accomplish all her policy goals before leaving office. Her short tenure limited her impact compared to longer-serving council veterans.
2022 Hawaii Governor Election
In 2022, Heidi Tsuneyoshi set her sights on higher office by running for Governor of Hawaii.
Tsuneyoshi entered a crowded Republican primary field with several prominent conservatives. Her name recognition from the city council helped Tsuneyoshi stand out.
She ran on a very conservative platform of cutting taxes, opposing COVID restrictions, and limiting government. Tsuneyoshi also emphasized her local Hawaii roots over her primary opponents who had relocated from the mainland.
Despite her efforts, Tsuneyoshi ultimately lost in the Republican gubernatorial primary. The winner would go on to lose handily in the general election to the Democratic incumbent Governor.
While she was unable to capitalize on her council tenure to advance politically, Tsuneyoshi’s gubernatorial run did demonstrate Republican enthusiasm and energy in Hawaii.
Outside of politics, Heidi Tsuneyoshi has lived most of her life in her home state of Hawaii.
She resides in Wahiawa on the island of Oahu – the same town where she grew up.
Tsuneyoshi has four children with her husband. Family is an important part of her life outside the political arena.
Legacy and Impact
Heidi Tsuneyoshi’s tenure as a Honolulu City Council member only lasted one term from 2019 to 2023. However, she left a mark in several ways:
- Tsuneyoshi brought a conservative Republican voice to the traditionally Democratic council. She questioned status quo spending and pushed for fiscal restraint.
- She drew attention to issues like homelessness, mental health services, and substance abuse that impact many Hawaii residents. Tsuneyoshi gave a voice to these concerns.
- As a Filipina-American, Tsuneyoshi also represented diversity within Hawaii’s Republican party. She showed that Republicans come from all backgrounds.
While limited in duration, Heidi Tsuneyoshi’s council service demonstrated how conservative leaders can advocate for underserved communities and shape policy debates in progressive places like Honolulu. Her impact reflects a nuanced political profile.
Heidi Tsuneyoshi had an interesting if brief political career. As a Honolulu City Council member and gubernatorial candidate, Tsuneyoshi brought attention to social welfare issues while also promoting typical Republican positions like lower taxes. Though she served only one term, Tsuneyoshi gave conservative voices more prominence in Democratic Hawaii politics. Her mix of policy goals demonstrated how Republicans can blend fiscal conservatism with care for disadvantaged groups. While she never attained higher office, Tsuneyoshi carved out an important space for non-traditional Republican voices.
Q: Where is Heidi Tsuneyoshi originally from?
A: Heidi Tsuneyoshi grew up and has spent most of her life in Wahiawa on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Q: What was her career before politics?
A: Tsuneyoshi worked as a behavioral health specialist and statewide coordinator for a child abuse prevention program. Her background was in social services.
Q: How long did Tsuneyoshi serve on the Honolulu City Council?
A: Tsuneyoshi served just one term from 2019 to 2023 before leaving office.
Q: What major policies did she advocate for as council member?
A: Key initiatives Tsuneyoshi championed included streamlining permits for small businesses, upgrading parks, expanding mental health services, and increasing homeless outreach.
Q: Why did Tsuneyoshi lose in the 2022 Hawaii Republican gubernatorial primary?
A: Despite her name recognition, Tsuneyoshi lost to opponents with more conservative platforms and ties to mainland politics. The winner went on to lose in the general election.