Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee candidates Kalei Akaka and Esther Kia‘aina will face each other in the Nov. 6 general election because neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Oahu seat.

And three incumbents trustees — John Waihee IV, Lei Ahu Isa and Rowena Akana — will face three challengers for the three at-large positions on the OHA board.

Akaka had 15.7 percent to Kia’aina’s 13.9 percent. Sam Wilder King II had 13.1 percent, according to numbers released by the Office of Elections.

Also in the race were Paul Mossman with 4.9 percent, Leona Mapuana Kalima with 4.7 percent, Francine Kanani Murray with 3.1 percent and Jackie Kahookele Burke with 3.1 percent.

The Nimitz Highway office of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

For the at-large posts, Waihee had 8.6 percent, Isa with 6.2 percent and Akana with 5.9 percent. William Aila was in fourth place with 5.1 percent followed by Faye Hanohano with 4.1 percent and Brendon Kalei’aina Lee with 4.0 percent.

Trailing the top six finishers in the at-large race are Makana Paris with 3.0 percent, Pohai Ryan with 2.8 percent, Kealii Makekau with 2.7 percent, Alvin Akina with 2.3 percent, Landen Paikai with 2.0 percent, Marc Kalei Pa’aluhi with 1.1 percent, Lei Sharsh-Davis with 0.9 percent, Kaui Amsterdam with 0.9 percent and Kali Puuohau with 0.7 percent.

More than 40 percent of voters left the ballots blank in the Oahu contest while more than 49 percent did the same for the at-large election.

Akaka Vs. King Vs. Kia’aina

The race for the Oahu seat featured Akaka, the granddaughter of the late U.S. Sen. Dan Akaka; King, a right-leaning outspoken critic of OHA; and Kia‘aina, who has long served in state and federal Democratic administrations.

King and Kia‘aina raised the most money out of the seven candidates running for the Oahu seat. Kia‘aina said she was running to improve accountability and civility and has a broad base of support from Democratic politicians. King is a conservative candidate who doesn’t believe in race-based government.

The two differ on their stances regarding the OHA CEO and the Thirty Meter Telescope. King supports building the TMT while Kia‘aina has concerns about it. Both OHA chairwoman Colette Machado and Crabbe donated to her campaign, while King swore to get rid of CEO Kamana’opono Crabbe if elected. King was endorsed by Trustee Kelii Akina.

Recent campaign filings showed that Aila, a deputy director for the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Ryan, a former state senator, had the most cash on hand out of the 15 at-large candidates.

Aila is a former state Director of Land and Natural Resources. Ryan served as executive director of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.

A Board In Turmoil

Incumbents Akana, Isa and Waihee campaigned to maintain their at-large seats. The latest campaign filings found none of them spent any money this year.

Akana has been a trustee since 1990 and is in the midst of a lawsuit against the state Ethics Commission, which is seeking to fine her for alleged ethics violations. Both Isa and Waihee returned money from their trustee allowance after an audit raised concerns about multiple trustees’ spending.

The election comes as the Office of Hawaiian Affairs struggles with ethics scandals and political infighting amongst its Board of Trustees.

A state audit earlier this year said OHA leaders may not be spending trust funds properly for the benefit of Native Hawaiians. The agency is currently being investigated by the state Attorney General’s office, and is reportedly the subject of an FBI probe.

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