Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Longtime incumbents and Kauai’s Ahuna ahead in OHA race

By Susan Essoyan


Dan Ahuna, a teacher at Kauai High School and former University of Hawaii football player, prevailed in a crowded field and will replace retiring trustee Donald Cataluna at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

“It is with great humility and confidence that I accept the endorsement of the people of the state of Hawaii,” Ahuna, 44, said. “In the coming months, I’ll be working hard to prepare myself and staff for this great leadership role.”

In other OHA races, incumbents kept their seats. Haunani Apoliona, a 16-year veteran trustee, turned aside challenges from well-known football coach Cal Lee and Molokai activist Walter Ritte. Five of the nine seats on the board were at stake this year.

On Maui, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, who was appointed to OHA in January, managed to keep her post, pulling ahead of challenger Dain Kane, a former Maui County Council member, and several others.

Robert K. Lindsey Jr., the trustee representing Hawaii island, had twice the number of votes as his nearest challenger. The two Lindseys are distantly related and met for the first time as OHA trustees.

Chairwoman Colette Machado, a Molokai resident, faced no opposition and was automatically re-elected.

Voting for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is statewide, with every voter eligible to cast a ballot in any OHA race, wherever they live. That makes it challenging for candidates to get their names before voters.

“Because it is a statewide race, your voter pool is the same as the governor,” said Billy Swain, a former legislator and Kauai County Council member who was among those vying to replace Cataluna.

“You try to get the message out there as best you possibly can.”

If only the votes of Kauai residents were counted, Swain would have won. But Ahuna came out on top in the statewide tally, followed by Haunani Pacheco and Kanani Kagawa Fu. There were 11 candidates for the Kauai seat.

Ahuna teaches Hawaiian Studies and civics at Kauai High and has coached youth sports for years.

He lives in Kapaa with his wife, Kanoe, and four sons, and said he sees athletics and schooling as important pathways to success in life.

“Hawaiians have high levels of chronic disease and by any measure are not as educated as we would hope,” Ahuna said. “Health and education are two fundamentals that are very important that I hope I can represent.”

A major item on the agenda for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is to make a master plan for the land known as Kakaako Makai which was received from the state this year to settle a $200 million debt.

Carmen Lindsey, owner of Lindsey Realty, said she wanted to stay on the board to offer her expertise in real estate on the Kakaako project and others. A former land use and codes administrator for Maui County, she also worked at Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

“I’ve worked really hard in the last 10 months, and I could see that I could make a difference,” she said. “The development is going to be very exciting.”

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