Luana Alapa beat incumbent Colette Machado in the race to represent Molokai and Lanai on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, according to the latest round of election results released early Wednesday morning.

Machado is the chairwoman of the board, where she has served for more than two decades. She was first elected in 1996. Alapa is a former Miss Hawaii who manages a modeling agency. This is her first foray into politics.

According to the results, Alapa had 34.2% of the vote compared with Machado’s 27.5%.

Colette Machado faced Luana Alapa for the OHA seat representing Molokai and Lanai. 

Alapa edged out Machado during the primary but didn’t get enough votes to win outright. Alapa spent $23,000 on her campaign, half as much as Machado’s $45,000, according to their latest available campaign finance reports.

But even though Alapa won, Machado led Alapa among Maui County residents, which includes Molokai and Lanai voters whom the OHA seat is supposed to represent. Machado picked up more than 24% of the Maui County vote compared with Alapa’s 17%, a difference of more than 3,000 votes, according to the latest available returns.

All OHA seats are chosen by eligible Hawaii voters statewide, including the island representatives.

The results released Wednesday morning indicated incumbent Keli‘i Akina had the edge in his bid to keep his at-large seat. Akina had 34.2% of the vote compared with 33.5% held by his opponent, real estate agent Keoni Souza.

About 3,800 votes separated the two candidates in an election that showed voter turnout to be near 67%. As of Wednesday morning, the Hawaii Office of Elections reported that it still had about 12,000 ballots yet to process on Oahu.

Hawaii election rules state that automatic recounts occur if 100 or fewer votes separate candidates or 0.25% of the total votes cast, whichever is greater.

Akina leads the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a right-leaning nonprofit, and is finishing up his first four-year term on the OHA Board of Trustees. Souza hasn’t served in office before but is backed by several unions and some members of Hawaii’s Democratic party.

Akina ran the most expensive campaign of any OHA trustee candidate by far, spending more than $188,000, according to his latest campaign filing. In contrast, Souza spent less than $40,000, according to his most recent report.

The 2020 elections include a race between Keli’i Akina and Keoni Souza for an OHA at-large seat. 

Keola Lindsey had 40.1% of the vote for the Hawaii island seat on OHA’s Board of Trustees. Lindsey far outstripped his opponent Lanakila Mangauil in the race for the board’s only open seat, with Mangauil claiming 25.6% of the vote in early returns.

Mangauil is a longtime activist best known for his opposition to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea. Lindsey is a longtime OHA staffer who is currently the organization’s policy advocate. He is also a nephew of the outgoing trustee, Robert Lindsey.

The two spent the least of the general election candidates. Lindsey spent about $8,000 and Mangauil spent over $10,000.

Lanakila Mangauil, candidate for Big Island OHA Trustee , sign-waves with supporters in Naalehu. Photo: Tim Wright
Lanakila Mangauil, who ran for Big Island OHA trustee against Keola Lindsey, waved with supporters in Naalehu last week. Tim Wright/Civil Beat/2020

Incumbent Trustee Dan Ahuna won another term representing Kauai and Niihau during the August primary by garnering more than half of the vote.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is a semi-autonomous state agency dedicated to the betterment of Hawaii’s Indigenous people. The organization manages assets and investments worth an estimated $600 million and advocates on behalf of Native Hawaiians at the state and federal levels.

The Board of Trustees includes nine seats made up of elected officials who serve four-year terms. All seats — even those representing particular islands — are statewide elections, similar to the gubernatorial race. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling two decades ago opened up voting to all eligible Hawaii voters, not just people of Native Hawaiian ancestry.

The Board of Trustees in recent years has been dealing with concerns about accountability and transparency, as OHA trustees faced state ethics fines and the organization was subjected to a state attorney general investigation. The board has also sometimes been plagued with infighting, including lawsuits between trustees.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more results come in.

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