comscore 2020 Election: Lei Kihoi | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Lei Kihoi

  • Lei Kihoi
Name on ballot:

Lei Kihoi

Running for:

OHA Hawaii Resident Trustee

Political party:

Non-Partisan Race

Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Attorney, Therapist (MSW),College Instructor



Previous job history:

Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals/Hawaii Supreme Court Staff Attorney; Hawaii Legislative & Constitutional Attorney; Haku (Ho’oponopono Practitioner) Family Court Hawai’i; Therapist, Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Public Safety (DPS); Lecturer, University of Hawai’i Master’s Degree of Social Work Program; Guardian Ad Litem, Family Court; Mediator, Family Court; Consultant, Pohnpei Supreme Court (UH LawSchool); Consultant, Jicarilla Apache and Navajo Court; Attorney, International Tribunal of Indigenous Rights; Lobbyist, Washington D.C (Trails, Airline, Native Hawaiians); Grant Reviewer, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C; Member, Governors’ Lingle and Abercrombie Advisory Council for Big Island; Executive Board Member, Hawaiian Civic Club South Kohala and Hawaiian Civic Club Kalihi-Palama; Hawai’i Island Commissioner, Native Hawaiian Roll Commission; Advisory Board Member, Public Broadcasting Service; Lecturer, Hawaii Community College; Executive Board Member, E Mau Na Ala Hele (Trail Preservation Hawaii Island); Pro Bono Attorney for Animals; Board Member, Hui Hanai (Queen Liliuokalani Trust); Member, Polynesian Voyaging Society; Hawaii Delegate, League of Women Voters; Presenter, World Indigenous People’s Conference; Presenter, National Conference Indian Child Welfare Act (New Mexico); Member, American Association of University Women (AAUW); Executive Board Member, Hawaiian Affairs Caucus (HAC) , Democratic Party of Hawaii; Member of Hawaii Bar Washington, D.C Bar. and Native Hawaiian Bar Associations.

Previous elected office, if any:


Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

My background as a an attorney, ho’oponopono practitioner, therapist combined with my knowledge of the structure and function of government and operative agencies provides me with the necessary skills to make OHA a more viable institution not only for Hawaiians, but for all of Hawai’i.

What will be your top priority if elected?

Restore and maintain the integrity, respect and trust for the the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). This loss of respect due to the recent audit, self-dealings, FBI investigations, self-dealing, internal lawsuits, scandals, ethic violations, financial audits, mismanagement, fraud, misappropriation of funds, corruption.
has created a “black cloud” over OHA, resulting in a negative impact on OHA’s ability to fully accomplish its’ mission– which is to provide for the betterment of Native Hawaiians. In my opinion, this dim view of OHA has impeded OHA’s ability to fully get its mandated ceded land revenues from the Legislative and Executive Branches of government.

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent and what can the Office of Hawaiian Affairs do to address that need?

The most pressing need is Housing and Homelessness.

According to the 2011 Hawaii Health Survey, the combined population of pure and part Native Hawaiians comprise 23.9 percent of Hawaii’s overall population.

Hawaii is the most expensive place to live in US. The cost of living in Hawaii is about 3 times than what it is generally paid in the United States. Renting a place runs from $800 to $3,000 per month. A median sales price of a single family home is $835,000 (2019) and a condo is $461,500.

Although I do not have the actual number of Hawaiians who are homeless, it is my assumption that a significant amount of Hawaiians are homeless as a result of not having the income to either rent or buy a home.

As a Trustee, I would promote a plan to “leverage” our investment, by partnering with Hawaiian/Non Hawaiian, Private/Public Organizations, Profit/NonProfit entities to build more affordable homes for Hawaiians. For example, I would advocate partnership with Kamehameha Schools, DHHL, Howard Hughes Corporations to build homes for Hawaiians. This would put more Hawaiians in homes, and reduce the homelessness among our people.

What is one specific change you would like to see in OHA’s operations and what would you do to make it happen?

I believe in Transparency, Accountability and Openness in Government.

OHA was formed via Constitutional Amendment at the 1978 “Con Con”. The purpose of OHA was to serve as an entity to receive ceded land revenues which were mandated in 1959 under the Admissions Act.

As indicated, above, today, OHA is under the microscope—in-house fighting, State Attorney General and FBI investigations, self-dealing, internal lawsuits, scandals, ethic violations, financial audits, mismanagement, fraud, misappropriation of funds, corruption.

This has had a negative affect on the public, the state Legislature (who OHA depends on for continued mandated funding), and also its’ beneficiaries.

I plan to amend the current By-law of OHA. Why? Because State Law requires OHA Trustee to follow its’ internal By-Laws. It is my understanding that there is no enforcement mechanism in the current by-laws. When a Trustee violates their fiduciary duties, they should be held accountable by censure, fine, suspension or expulsion.

As an Attorney, who has drafted many By-laws, I would immediately ask that the internal By-laws be amended to assure that every Trustee be held accountable for their actions. Why use external means (ie. Lawsuits, audits, etc) to reprimand behavior that has a negative impact on Trust assets. Self-Regulation is the Answer.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and what should OHA’s role be in the process?

No. I do not support the building of TMT at this time because the issues surrounding the building of TMT have not been adequately addressed such as the size (seven stories) of the structure, the fact that Native Hawaiians have not been adequately consulted, the poor management of Maunakea thus far, the failure to remove current telescopes (no cleanup plan) and no decommissioning plans.

Do I believe Maunakea is a sacred place. Yes, I do. Mount Fuji(Japan), Machu Picchu (Peru), Uluru (Australia) (Ayer’s Rock)–all mountains which I have personally visited–deemed sacred by indigenous peoples of the region. My ancestors would ride by horseback to take the piko (navel, fig. blood relative genitals) of our newborns to the top of Mauna Kea to be buried —in order to connect our newborn to their ancestral lands, the Akua. My mother saved the piko of her children (us), to send to Maunakea. We (Purdy family) recently took the piko of our newborn child to the top of Mauna Kea about six months ago . Yes, I believe Maunakea is a sacred place.

What is OHA’s role in easing the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in prisons?

Native Hawaiians comprise 23.9 percent of Hawaii’s overall population. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) reports the the state’s incarcerated population is 39% Native Hawaiian or Part Hawaiian.

When adult Hawaiians are removed from their home for an extended period of time, this has an impact on unemployment, housing, homelessness and education of our population. We need to fix this.

To fix this: As a OHA Trustee, I would promote job employment training, more Community College certificated program training, educational scholarships, and youth job training, substance abuse prevention, domestic violence training in order to reduce and prevent incarceration of Native Hawaiians.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I believe in justice, equity, transparency, openness in government and accountability. As a Trustee of OHA, my primary goal would be to restore trust and integrity for an entity, such as OHA, which I believe has truly served Hawaiians well. OHA is the voice of our people. My hope is to restore trust in OHA so that OHA can better fulfill its’ mission: To serve for the betterment of Native Hawaiians, and for a better Hawai’i.


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