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Meyer, Hee bring experience to race for revamped District 23

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Former state Rep. Colleen Meyer is seeking election to the state Senate, challenging incumbent Clayton Hee in a reconfigured district that now includes Waialua, Hale­iwa, Sunset Beach and Pupukea.

Meyer, 73, who lost re-election to Demo­crat and environmental advocate Jessica Wooley in 2008, was regarded as a conservative Republican when she served in the state House from 1995 to 2008.

Meyer could benefit from a strong turnout by Mormons in Laie for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the presidential race. Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Meyer, an independent businesswoman, could also do well in a portion of the newly constituted Senate District 23, which includes Haleiwa town, Sunset Beach and Pupukea, where there is a lot of business activity.

Meyer, a Catholic born in Honolulu and a graduate of Punahou School, said the country was founded on Christian beliefs, and she does not believe the government should force religious institutions to do things that are against their tenets.

She’s worked as a real estate broker and property manager and is in favor of allowing the development of housing projects, such as Ho‘o­pili in Ewa and Koa Ridge in Mililani.

"Those projects will help to get a large number of construction workers back to work," she said.

Hee, 59, said he has actively opposed the development of Ho‘o­pili and Koa Ridge, planned on prime farmland, and wants to see Hawaii reduce its reliance on imported food.

"We in Hawaii import 85 percent of our food. That’s a dire situation," he said. "It’s inexcusable, inexplicable that this state cannot produce at least half of its food. At some point enough is enough."

Hee said the Sierra Club has supported him because he and the Sierra Club believe in "keeping the country country."

Meyer said she’s against rail transit.

"I don’t believe we have a population large enough to support the rail," she said.

Hee acknowledged that he supported the law authorizing the city to raise state taxes on Oahu for the rail project, but said he opposes the city’s current plan for a "heavy steel on steel" system.

"It is too expensive and will not sustain itself economically," he said.

Both Meyer and Hee have sent their children to private schools.

Hee, a Kamehameha Schools graduate and former public school teacher, said he supports funding teacher pay raises and encourages the teachers and governor to collectively bargain for better teacher accountability.

Meyer, asked whether she’d support increasing the state Department of Education budget to restore teacher pay to levels before pay cuts, said she would first want to see what kind of agreement is worked out between the state executive branch and the teachers union.

She said the department is top-heavy with only 16,000 teachers out of 30,000 employees.

Both Meyer and Hee voted for an environmental study exemption for the Hawaii Superferry that was later determined to be unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.

Hee said he voted for the exemption with reservations and thinks a ferry system is a reasonable alternative for moving citizens between islands.

But Hee, chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor, agrees that the state Supreme Court was correct in striking down the exemption.

He said he’s against transporting neighbor island natural resources, such as opihi, for consumption in Hono­lulu.

"The fact that (there are) no more opihi on Oahu is the fault of people on Oahu," he said.

"To go over and take the opihi on Maui is not pono."

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