As he eyes governor’s race, Kahele confronted by past allegations of threats stemming from divorce

As he flirts with a potential gubernatorial run, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele is facing increased scrutiny over his political and personal life.
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 8:34 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2022 at 10:19 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As he flirts with a potential gubernatorial run, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele is facing increased scrutiny over his political and personal life.

He recently ran into a buzzsaw of criticism for his attendance record in Congress.

Earlier this month, Honolulu Civil Beat reported that Kahele has not voted in-person since January. Instead, he voted by proxy 120 times, Civil Beat said.

Now, he’s responding to allegations stemming his divorce in Tennessee 14 years ago that he threatened his ex-spouse.

In court records obtained by Hawaii News Now, his ex-wife’s attorney alleged that she was in “fear of her safety” due to his “volatile nature and temper.”

“Defendant made the threat ‘maybe I’ll divorce you and take everything you own and kick you out of the house or maybe it would be just easier to kill you and take (their daughter) back to Hawaii,” wrote attorney Charles McGhee.

University of Hawaii political science Professor Colin Moore said allegations about Kahele’s conduct in an old divorce case are relevant for voters today.

“When you have an allegation that is credible and is in a sworn statement, then you need to respond and let (voters) know whether it’s true or not,” said Moore.

“Someone in Congress or running for high office has an obligation to address even very painful things to provide their constituents with that information.”

Kahele and his ex-wife were both Air National Guard pilots at the time. He denied that he threatened her.

“Divorce is tough and emotions run high during difficult transitions in a marriage. ... But I did not make any threats in my previous relationship,” Kahele said in an email to Hawaii News Now, which he later posted on his social media accounts.

Kahele acknowledged that his wartime assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq added stress to his family life but said that he and his former wife have patched up their differences.

“I had personally completed three overseas deployments prior to our separation ... and our marriage and relationship was unfortunately impacted by that stress,” Kahele wrote.

“Fourteen years later, my former spouse and I have an amicable relationship and work together to raise our now 17-year-old daughter.”

Kahele’s former wife could not be reached and her attorney had no immediate comment.

Kahele has also responded to criticism over his attendance in Congress and use of proxy voting, saying he wanted to limit cross-country travel due to COVID-19 risks — especially since he lives in in a multi-generational home.

But political insiders say he abused the proxy voting system and remained in Hawaii to raise his profile for a possible gubernatorial run.

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