Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles on candidates running to represent the 24th Congressional District. The district contains all of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, along with a sliver of Ventura County.

Matt Kokkonen hopes his passion and dedication pay off in 2016, when voters have the opportunity to make him their representative for the 24th Congressional District.

“I have a commitment to the American way of life, the Constitution that we have, my understanding of the business environment, my commitment to a balanced budget (and) my commitment to a limited government,” Kokkonen said.

A Republican, Kokkonen lists his biggest personal accomplishments as his 47-year marriage, his family and his United States citizenship, having legally emigrated at age 16 from Finland.

“We have a wonderful country, which is based on a unique and inspired Constitution,” Kokkonen said. “Our Declaration of Independence establishes right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which were granted to us by our creator. And my goal is to follow the Constitution.”

Kokkonen noted that listening to his constituents is a priority, regardless of their opinion.

“You take their points of view into account,” he said. "You study the issue, you make sure that you have as much information as possible and then you make decisions based on our constitutions and the principles of limited government and personal responsibilities."

One of the biggest threats facing the district, and the nation, is illegal immigration, he said.

“We need to protect our borders and stop the illegal entry into our country and into our area here,” Kokkonen said.

And that starts with making sure immigrants are here legally, he said.

“I think employers need to utilize the E-Verify program to make sure that everybody who works here is on a level playing field,” Kokkonen said. “We need to protect the American jobs that are here. I don’t want them to be replaced by people who have come here illegally.”

Kokkonen also is a proponent of strong national defense.

“I have served in the armed services, which other candidates have not,” he said. “I believe in supporting and strengthening our military to every degree possible.”

And that starts with immigration reform and securing the nation from radicals, he said.

“I believe that we need to fight radical Islam, which is literally destroying Western civilization and murdering people, including Christians and other people,” he said.

Eliminating the Affordable Care Act also needs to be accomplished, Kokkonen said.

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“We have to eliminate Obamacare, which is a drag on our businesses,” he said.

Cutting government spending is another of his concerns.

“Money should be kept in people’s pockets,” he said. “They know how to deal with money better than the government does.”

That goes for local governments as well, he said.

“Locally, we have to cut government spending and unnecessary programs,” Kokkonen said. “We have to support economic opportunities for families and make it possible for businesses to thrive here.”

Kokkonen is a Westmont College graduate, with a major in philosophy. He has 35 years of experience as a financial planner and has advised school boards on economics. He also has served as a trustee and deacon at a local church.

“I’m pleased that I have the opportunity to serve the people, to represent them,” he said.

“What makes me a good leader is my understanding of the Constitution, my willingness to work hard, my commitment to my principles, doing the right thing in life and knowing a lot of people who have trusted me and believe me and want me to be involved in their future through the political elections.”

Kenny Lindberg covers Santa Barbara County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter

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