Akaka, Kiaaina share unique connection as they compete for OHA’s Oahu seat

Both candidates have a close connection to late Senator Daniel Akaka.
OHA candidates for Oahu seat, Kalei Akaka and Esther Kiaaina share a common connection. (Image:...
OHA candidates for Oahu seat, Kalei Akaka and Esther Kiaaina share a common connection. (Image: Hawaii News Now)(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Oct. 31, 2018 at 8:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While other political races may get nasty, the two candidates running for Office of Hawaiian Affair’s Board of Trustees Oahu seat have a unique connection.

Kalei Akaka is the granddaughter of late Senator Daniel Akaka, while Esther Kiaaina worked for the “Aloha Statesman.”

Kalei Akaka would visit her grandfather during summers in Washington and later told him of her political ambitions.

During the 90′s, Esther Kiaaina was Akaka’s legislative assistant working on issues like Hawaiian self-determination and federal recognition.

“It’s a little awkward because we both care deeply about promoting Senator Akaka’s legacy,” Kiaaina said.

“One of the first things I did was call Esther, because my love for Esther doesn’t stop here,” Akaka said.

Kiaaina is Executive Director for the Pacific Basin Development Council and worked as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for President Obama.

“With a dysfunctional Office of Hawaiian Affairs, you really need someone who can go in there from day one restoring trust at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,” Kiaaina said. "I believe I’m the right person to do that.

Kalei Akaka works at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama in the middle school staff administration and worked at the state legislature.

“I’m so fortunate to have had a lifetime of experience having grown up in a family dedicated to service, doing things in the spirit of aloha,” Akaka said.

Kiaaina supports better management at Mauna Kea and a Hawaiian nation within a nation, while Akaka supports the Thirty Meter Telescope and wants to revisit the models of self-governance.

Both Kiaaina and Akaka wish to remind voters that everyone can vote in OHA elections and everyone can vote in the Oahu trustee seat.

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