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

The following came from Elwin Ahu, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. Also running are Les Chang of the Hawaii Independent Party and Libertarian Cynthia Marlin, who did not respond to the questionnaire, and Democrat Shan Tsutsui.

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

Name: Elwin P. Ahu

Office: Lieutenant governor

Party: Republican

Profession: Senior pastor, New Hope Metro

Education: Kamehameha School; Graceland University; William S. Richardson School of Law

Age: 59

Community organizations: Led homeless shelter outreach at Kalaeloa, River of Life and Next Step Shelter in Kakaako; led initiative to reunite families with Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Prison in Arizona; coordinated adopt-a-school programs in Kalihi

Elwin Ahu, lt. gov. candidate, 2014

Elwin Ahu

1. Why are you running for lieutenant governor?

I’m running for lieutenant governor of the state of Hawaii because I believe our elected officials have lost touch with the people of Hawaii and are no longer serving them. The people of Hawaii deserve public servants that listen to their needs. They deserve leaders who will look out for them and their kids. I feel I can no longer sit on the sidelines and hope for someone to come along and provide that kind of leadership. It is time to stand up and give people the choice to elect that kind of leader.

Duke Aiona and I are both in agreement that this year’s election will clearly define the future of our state for decades to come. We are not in this race for any personal gain or title. Both Duke and I are passionate about laying a foundation for our children that will allow them to live and work here and experience the Hawaii that we grew up in. We both have grown children who want to buy a home but can’t afford one, who struggle to make ends meet due to the high cost of living in our state, and who want to raise their families with the values they grew up with but are very concerned about the lack of trust, integrity and balance in our elected public servants. I have a son adopted from China who is in sixth grade. When my wife and I brought him to Hawaii we did so in order to give him the best life possible. I am running so that this young man and others his age are able to grow up in a place where values of respect, and integrity are taught and practiced.

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?

Resolving the state’s unfunded liabilities is one of the most complex challenges facing Hawaii today and for years to come. While no one has the silver bullet answer to this issue, what we must not do is continue to push this issue down the road as the past several legislative bodies have done. We need to set aside monies and commit them starting today in order to bring down the debt and not incur additional costs. I cannot put off paying my mortgage this year because I don’t have the money, I have to find the money in order to stay in my home. Likewise, we cannot put off paying this very large debt and expect to stay in a financially stable position. We must make bold and sometimes unpopular decisions to live within our means so that we can pay our bills as a state. Effective leadership demands this, and we must elect leaders willing to make the unpopular decisions in order to protect our state’s financial future.

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

GMO labelling is a controversial issue that has divided our state county by county. We must bring together the various voices on this and listen to the concerns of all sides. We must weigh the concerns of GMO labeling advocates with those of our local farmers who will pay a high cost should labeling become a requirement statewide. We also have to look at the cost to the state of enforcing any change to local labeling, and ensure that we have an effective process to identify engineered products that are imported. Should we move forward with any kind of awareness program, we need to ensure that it is fair to all and is enforceable. Duke and I are committed to working collaboratively to create a fair process to evaluate the option of GMO labelling and pesticide regulation.

4. 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?

As a pastor for the past 15 years I have worked alongside many community agencies that provide excellent support for the homeless population. And I have met and gotten to know families and individuals who have become homeless for many reasons. I agree with Duke that we need to address the chronically homeless through the homeless court program and in partnership with the National Guard. We also need to create more affordable housing and low income housing to increase options for our middle income families who are being priced out of their homes today. This will help the working homeless get back into their own homes for themselves and especially for their children. It is heartbreaking to see the increase in families coming into the shelters, and we need to do all we can to give these hard-working families back their homes and their dignity.

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?

I have travelled the state from Kauai to Kona in the last four months listening to the concerns of people. The high cost of living is the most important challenge facing Hawaii’s working families. I agree with Duke that we need to stop taxing food and medicine, essentials that should not be sold at such a burdensome cost. I would also advocate for an exemption from the Jones Act to lower the cost of shipping on essential goods in order to cut costs.

It is not only the cost of food, transportation, gas and electricity, it is the high fees the state now charges for everything from dog licenses to birth certificates. These fee increases are done with little public knowledge or input but are just as big a hit on the wallets of the working middle class as taxes. I would advocate for a statewide assessment of all fees charged by the state to ensure that we are not overcharging our residents and that the monies collected are both necessary and spent effectively.

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

As the son of a public school teacher and a pastor to many excellent public school teachers today, I know how much dedication and passion these men and women have for what they do. The profession of teaching is one of the most vital and least appreciated roles in our society today. I believe that our teachers should be given more input into the curriculum that best serves their students. As a state we must not govern our education system from the mindset of political gain, but must put our teachers’ needs first as they are truly on the front line shaping the future of Hawaii’s youngest minds and hearts. I agree with Duke that we need to do a complete audit of the Department of Education and empower our schools, giving them the tools they need to achieve measures of success that will prepare our youth to become successful productive citizens.

7. Would you support using liquefied natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And what thoughts do you have on improving the electric distribution system (the grid) so more renewables can be in the mix?

Hawaii’s residents pay one of the highest electricity rates in the United States. As an island state, we rely on imported oil for most of our electricity supply. However, in recent years we have seen a concerted effort to diversify our energy source with tax credits for solar energy, and other efforts to encourage alternative energy solutions like wind. LNG is another energy producing option that we should investigate as a way to bring down the cost of living for our island residents, and I believe we need to do a thorough review of its costs, benefits, risks and rewards. I also believe that we need to continue to pursue the smart grid technology that will allow our residents to make best use of their solar energy production and consumption.

8. 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?

As with many other fee increases, the fees charged to get copies of public records have skyrocketed over the past years. This has essentially made public information less accessible and affordable. Public documents should be available and easily accessible to all people, and I agree with Duke that public documents should be available online.

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?

Hawaii’s economy is heavily dependent on tourism which requires that we maintain our island’s beauty and open space. We must be mindful as we look to new development that we are also maintaining our island product in order to sustain tourism, and providing workforce and affordable housing to our workers that keep our number one industry thriving. We have seen many new local developments in the last 10 years that have come up with the intention of growing our economy, yet we have not enjoyed a better economic status but instead have seen an increase in economic hardship, increased traffic challenges and homelessness for our working families.

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

Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation. I believe much of the reason for that is that our families have lost hope in our government leaders. And not having hope, I believe, is the catalyst for the majority of the problems we face in Hawaii.

But the lack of hope is a misperception. There can be change. Our voices can be heard. We all have an obligation as Americans to speak up. And if those we have elected do not hear our voice, then we must elect new leaders. The frustration doesn’t need to last. Our laws have ensured that it is limited to brief multi-year terms. Hope is never far away.

Bringing hope to people has always been my life’s calling. Whether as a lawyer at Legal Aid Society of Hawaii or a public defender, a judge on the District and Circuit Courts, or a pastor and church planter, I have aimed to improve people’s lives. I’ve worked on the battlefield of life, face to face with those that need hope the most — the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the sufferers of addiction. I’ve walked alongside business owners struggling in the present economy and seen how it’s affected their families and quality of life.

But I’ve also seen how their lives can be restored, how they can become better. And it all starts with a seed of hope. That’s why I want to be the next lieutenant governor of my home state of Hawaii — to plant seeds of hope, to rebuild communities and restore lives. It’s not an easy task. It’s one we’ll need to do together. Duke and I are ready to serve Hawaii by leading our state in a new direction that will return trust, respect, transparency and balance to our government, and put hope back in the hearts of our people.