Kamehameha Schools employee Kalei Akaka was leading Saturday in the race for the open Oahu-resident seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees.
The granddaughter of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka captured 27 percent of the vote tally late in the evening that included the vast majority of the election’s ballots.
Akaka, 35, was leading veteran Hawaiian affairs official Esther Kia‘aina, who gained 23.7 percent of the statewide vote. Attorney Sam King was in third with 22.1 percent.
Meanwhile, incumbents John Waihee IV, Lei Ahu Isa and Rowena Akana continued to get the most votes for the three at-large seats. Waihee was earning 17.4 percent of the votes, while Ahu Isa captured 12.2 percent and Akana 11.9 percent.
The next-highest at-large vote-getters were veteran state official William Aila with 10.1 percent, former state Rep. Faye Hanohano with 8.2 percent and Brendon Kalei‘aina Lee, the ‘Aha Hawaiian constitutional convention chairman, with 7.8 percent.
With incumbent Peter Apo stepping away from his Oahu seat, the new board will have at least one new trustee. Seven hopefuls were attempting to replace Apo, while the crowded at-large race featured 12 candidates challenging the three incumbents.
The top two Oahu-seat finishers will advance to a runoff in the Nov. 6 general election, while the six top candidates for the at-large seat will advance to the general election where voters will choose the three winners.
Apo, who decided not to run for re-election after running afoul of ethics violations last year and being the target of a sexual harassment claim, formally endorsed King and Akaka to advance to the general.
The Maui-resident seat will be decided in the general election because there are only two candidates, Carmen Hulu Lindsey and Ke‘eaumoku Kapu.
The OHA board made headlines in the last year when it was criticized by the state auditor for inappropriate spending and for reportedly being the target of investigations by both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state Attorney General’s Office.
A February report by the auditor described spending “with little restraint” over a two-year period. Vague rules governing discretionary spending are broadly interpreted, arbitrarily enforced and sometimes ignored, the report said.
In response, the board established moratoriums on three different OHA spending categories, including the $22,200 personal allowance provided to each trustee.
During the campaign, Akaka called for an update of policies and practices as a result of the audit, while Kia‘aina declared that OHA’s spending habits and oversight should be overhauled.
Like her grandfather, Akaka supports the Thirty Meter Telescope, while Kia‘aina has expressed reservations about the stalled $1.4 billion project. Kia‘aina, the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources under former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, said that Mauna Kea is not being properly managed and that Native Hawaiians should have a greater say in determining the future of the mountain.