HONOLULU - A politician who says she can relate to the rest of us, State Senator Jill Tokuda is running for Lt. Governor after serving 12 years in the State Senate. She says family and community form her foundation.

Tokuda says she understands the struggle so many island families are going through because she's lived it. "We lived in everything from low income rentals to duplexes."

Growing up in Kaneohe, she says her parents- just teenagers when she was born- worked long hours and made sacrifices just to make ends meet. "There were many challenging times. There were many struggles, but I really do believe that gives you an important perspective."

A perspective that inspires this mother of two to help working families just like hers: "Families need to feel like they're not just surviving, they're thriving here." 

Tokuda held several leadership roles during her 12 years in the State Senate, including chair or the Senate Labor, Education and Ways and Means committees. Now, she wants to serve at the executive level as Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor. 

"For me, the priorities have always focused around the issues of the cost of living and affordability for our people; making sure that as our children grow up, they have access to all educational opportunities that we know are critical," Tokuda explains.

Tokuda graduated from Castle High School and was the first from her family to graduate from college. She wants to improve the public school system, starting with state-funded preschool. "We  have to be more aggressive in making sure we have learning opportunities statewide. That's something I've done, working with the preschool Open Doors program, the Family-Child Interaction Learning Centers- giving it funding, but also making sure it had legs."

With two boys of her own, Matt and Aden, she has a vested interest in protecting the future for Hawaii's keiki. "Policy is personal. It's real life. It's something I live every single  day, and I think you need that." 

She says she is committed to giving back, and now hopes to take the next step in serving her community. "That's important to me. Family comes first, but so many people are your family. They take care of you, they help you, and as a result you have to be there to help them and step up."