Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 4 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, Republican candidate  for state representative for District 45. Democrat Michael Magaoay is also running.

District 45 includes SchofieldMokuleiaWaialuaKuniaWaipio Acres and Mililani.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the General Election Ballot.

Name: Lauren Cheape Matsumoto

Office seeking: State House District 45

Party: Republican

Profession: State House representative

Education: Obtaining a Masters of Business Administration, Hawaii Pacific University; Bachelor of Arts, University of Hawaii at Manoa; Mililani High School.

Age: 27

Community organizations: American Heart Association, Jump Rope for Heart Ambassador; Mililani Lions Club, member; One Love Ministries, youth leader; Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, former ambassador; Women In Government, state director.

Lauren Cheape Matsumoto, candidate State Senate District 45, 2014

Lauren Cheape Matsumoto

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature? 

It has been my honor and privilege to serve you in the state House for the past two years, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to continue to serve the district where not only was I born and raised but also my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. As a public school graduate, University of Hawaii athlete and alumna, newlywed, and fourth-generation farmer here in Hawaii, my roots ground me. Every part of this district has had a hand in shaping who I am. It makes me a unique advocate for all parts of the district. And not only because I have a past here, but because it’s my present, and I am an advocate for its future. I am not a career politician. I am a neighbor who wants to serve my community. I have learned that leadership is not sitting on the sidelines and waiting your turn. Leadership is having a sense of urgency combined with a unique voice that lets you know you can make a difference in your community.  And I am here to make that difference.

2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers? 

While we have made steps in the right direction our state still has a long way to go in addressing this issue. Hawaii has one of the highest balances of unfunded liabilities in the entire country. It is important that we don’t tax pensions or health obligations in order to meet this demand. The Legislature needs to make this issue a high priority and begin to dedicate more of our state budget to address the problem.

3. Local officials and advocates have worked to address homelessness for years, yet the crisis is growing. What proposals do you have for this complicated issue? 

In the last two years the Legislature has funded the Housing First program. Housing First works with local nonprofits and focuses on first getting the homeless into stable housing and then providing the other auxiliary services to get them back on their feet. This program has been successful in many large cities across the globe and can make a difference in the homelessness crisis here in Hawaii. However we must also work together to make Hawaii more affordable through solutions such as implementing tax exemptions on necessities such as food and medication. There has to be a multi-pronged approach to address this complex issue.

4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated? 

The district that I represent includes some of the best pristine environmental coastlines in the islands as well as prime agricultural lands. The GMO issue is a difficult one, and as someone who comes from a farming background, my current focus in the Legislature is local food for local people. That being said I feel that greater transparency and consumer awareness is important when it comes to this issue. People have a right to know, but we need to ensure that we label in a way that will make the most sense for our state. I think it would be best if GMO labeling was addressed at the federal level so that trade between the state would be seamless and the labeling laws consistent.

5. Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest in the country by many indicators. What can really be done to make things like housing, food and transportation less expensive? 

One of the biggest issues in our state in the high cost of living. I understand firsthand how the cost of living here is prohibitive. Both my husband and I work two jobs just to afford living here. This is not just an issue for my generation but for our kupuna as well as the next generation coming up. Living here continues to get more and more difficult. In the last session, there were numerous bills for tax increases that our population really can’t afford. We don’t want all of our best and brightest leaving to the mainland because there are no jobs. Many people whose families have been here for generations are being forced to move to the mainland due to the increasing costs. We need to stop raising taxes and recognize that our state has some of the highest taxes in the country. We have the highest individual income tax rate and the third-highest gas tax across the United States. We can take steps forward to combat our high taxes by solutions like eliminating taxes on essentials such as food and medicine.

6. Would you support using liquified natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And how can we improve the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to bring costs down?

Hawaii has one of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the entire nation, 40 percent by 2030. We have an opportunity to capitalize on clean energy in our state. In order to improve the electrical distribution system HECO needs to update the grid to have a system that can handle individual as well as commercial renewable energy.

7. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Yet many citizens are unable to afford the costs that state and local government agencies impose. Would you support eliminating search and redaction charges and making records free to the  public except for basic copying costs? 

Yes, the public has a right to know what their government is doing. In order for people to get truly involved in the process, there needs to be greater transparency in our government.

8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better? 

I am a proud graduate of the Mililani Public School system and my father is a teacher at Nanakuli High School. I received a quality education and I know that teachers like my father go above and beyond to prepare their students. That being said, I feel that the pubic schools could be run better if more of the funding went straight to the schools to be best spent in that complex area.

9. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests? 

As an island state there will always be tensions between development and preservation. However, that doesn’t mean that there cannot be a balance between the two. We need to focus on developing closer to the urban core, as well as look at transit oriented development (constructing homes and businesses near the rail line) as the rail is being built. This will allow for our agricultural and conservation lands to remain in open space. With limited land, we need to develop a land use policy where future development can maximize the best possible outcome for the environment and those who live here.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here? 

Hawai’i was once a completely self-sustaining chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We now produce only about 10 percent of our own food. I strongly believe we need to come together as a community and strengthen Hawai’i agriculture to become more self-sustainable. A frightening statistic is that the average age of Hawai’i farmers is 65 years old. We need to educate and inspire our younger generations to embrace the farming lifestyle. Born into a fourth generation farming family in Wahiawa who established Petersons’ Upland Farm in 1910, I uniquely understand the difficulties facing agriculture in Hawai’i today. As one of the only state legislators to come from a farming background I continue to fight to keep our agricultural lands zoned for their intended use, to provide tax incentives for local famers, to continue educating the public on the importance of buying local, and to encourage educational programs in our schools such as Future Farmers of America. We need to continue to take steps forward to secure self-sustainability for future generations.