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Kai Kahele sworn in to replace his late father in state Senate


    New state Sen. Kaiali’i “Kai” Kahele (right) hugs Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald (left) after taking the oath of office at the beginning of today’s Senate session at the State Capitol.

Kaialii Kahele took the oath of office at the State Capitol today to fill the remaining term of his father in the state Senate representing Hilo.

Kahele, who goes by Kai, is the son of former Sen. Gil Kahele, a Democrat who represented District 1 in the Senate until he died Jan. 26 after suffering a heart attack.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald administered the oath at the opening of today’s Senate session at 11:30 a.m.

Kai Kahele, 41, is a major in the Hawaii Air National Guard and a combat veteran C-17 instructor pilot.

In 2005 he was awarded a National Defense Service Medal and a U.S. Air Force Air Medal for combat missions flown in Afghanistan. He is also a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines.

Kahele, who served as treasurer in his father’s 2012 campaign, said he plans to run for election this year to seek a full term in the Hilo Senate seat. The Ige appointment is effective until the Nov. 8 election, when the voters will choose Gil Kahele’s permanent replacement.

“I am humbled that Gov. Ige had the faith and confidence and trust in me to appoint me to the seat, but the appointment is political, and Aug. 13 is when the people of Hilo get to speak, and I hope that I can earn their vote, earn their trust, earn their confidence” during the legislative session now underway at the state Capitol, Kai Kahele said. Aug. 13 is the date of the primary election.

Kahele said he will be focused on bills that his father introduced this year and other initiatives the elder Kahele had been pushing during his time in the Senate.

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