The race to represent Oahu on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees may come down to Esther Kia‘aina and Sam Wilder King II, who are going into next month’s primary with far more money than any of their five competitors.
King holds conservative political views and doesn’t believe in race-based government. But if funding is any indication, reports filed Thursday with the state Campaign Spending Commission suggest he has a good chance to serve on the agency that’s supposed to represent Native Hawaiians and promote their interests.
Esther Kia‘aina has the support of several local Democratic politicians and the leadership at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. She reported $48,531 in total contributions received over the past six months, but that includes $28,500 that she loaned herself.
The reports filed Thursday cover the period from Jan. 1 through June 30.
King received more contributions than Kia‘aina — $20,421 compared to her $17,619 — but had fewer donors than she did.
She spent more than $31,000 over the past six months and had about $17,000 in cash left as of June 30. King only spent about $9,400 so far leaving him with nearly $11,000 in the bank.
Both OHA chairwoman Colette Machado and OHA’s chief executive officer Kamana’opono Crabbe donated to Kia‘aina.
King wants to replace Crabbe if elected, and Crabbe’s job depends on whether there are enough trustees who vote to keep or extend his contract.
Some of King’s biggest donors include David Lundquist, president of Hardware Hawaii, who gave him $6,000, and his mother, Adrienne King, who donated $4,000.
The race for the Oahu OHA seat is contentious this year because Peter Apo, who has held the seat for several years, decided not to run again. The winner could shift the political balance of the OHA board that for years has been tangled up in infighting and allegations of financial mismanagement.
King is running on a platform of fiscal transparency and says his opposition to race-based government doesn’t contradict his desire to serve on OHA’s board.
“OHA was started as (race-based government) by (Gov. John) Waihee but it wasn’t a good idea then and it’s not a good idea now and the Supreme Court in 2000 said that’s not how it works in this government,” King says, referring to the court ruling Rice v. Cayetano that struck down Hawaiian-only OHA elections. Since then, any registered voter can vote for board members.
King says he wants to help OHA more effectively provide services to Native Hawaiians, protect and strengthen Hawaiian culture and advocate on issues that are important to Hawaii’s indigenous community.
“This is Hawaii,” King said. “Focusing on that group and helping that group is not going to hurt the state.”
He was recently endorsed by OHA Trustee Keli‘i Akina, executive director of the libertarian nonprofit Grassroot Institute. King’s donors include Christopher Oakes, who works for developer Stanford Carr; John Field, vice president at Punahou School and Trever Asam, an attorney at Cades Schutte. Nan Shin of Nan Inc., a major rail contractor, gave King about $4,000.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Stanford Carr himself donated to King.
King’s biggest expenditures this year include money for campaign consulting and advertising.
Kia‘aina formerly worked at the U.S. Interior Department and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under Democratic administrations. She has said she’s running to improve accountability and civility at OHA, and cites her extensive experience in government and knowledge of land management as skills that set her apart from other competitors.
Her donors include several Democratic politicians, such as state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro; former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hanneman; Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi and former Congressman Ed Case, who is campaigning to return to Washington, D.C., this year.
Machado, the chairwoman of the OHA Board of Trustees, gave Kia‘aina $500 and OHA CEO Crabbe gave her $300.
Kia‘aina previously said she doesn’t have an opinion on whether to keep Crabbe.
Kia‘aina’s donors also include attorney Paul Alston whose law firm represents OHA; Susan Char, government relations director for Hawaiian Electric Co.; Leilani Williams-Solomon, vice president at Bank of Hawaii; and well-known lobbyist Blake Oshiro.
Kia‘aina reported spending the bulk of her money on hiring a campaign coordinator and paying for advertising. She did not respond to a voicemail and text message seeking comment late Thursday.
Other candidates for the Oahu OHA seat raised relatively little compared to Kia‘aina and King. Francine Murray raised $5,252 and spent $2,358, leaving her with $2,893 as of June 30.
A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Murray’s name Francis.
Paul Mossman gave himself about $400 and Kalei Akaka took out a $94 loan and spent it on printing campaign business cards. Leona Kalima reported receiving and spending just $25. There was no report available for Jackie Kaho’okele Burke online Thursday evening.
Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to email@example.com and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.