East Hawaii News

UPDATE: Kaiali’i Kahele Named to Late Father’s Post

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Kaiali’i Kahele. Photo courtesy Office of Governor David Ige.

Kaiali’i Kahele. Photo courtesy Office of Governor David Ige.

***Updated at 3:30 p.m. to include statements from the Hawai’i State Senate leadership.***

Kaiali’i Kahele has been appointed to fulfill the role of his late father.

Governor David Ige announced the appointment of Kaiali’i Kahele, who goes by Kai, on Tuesday.


The late Senator Gilbert Kahele died suddenly on Jan. 26. He represented Senate District 1, which includes the greater Hilo area.

“Kai has extensive community support and is committed to completing the work of his father,” said Governor Ige. “He has a broad vision for the future of this district and for all of Hawai‘i Island that will serve his constituents well.

“I thank the high-quality candidates who were willing to serve and the Senate district one Nominating Committee for working so quickly to get the names to me


A Hilo High School and UH-Manoa graduate, Kai Kahele is a Major in the Hawai‘i Air National Guard and a combat veteran C-17 instructor pilot. He is also a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines, a University of Hawai’i at Hilo adjunct faculty member, and the executive director of the nonprofit Pa‘a Pono Miloli‘i.

“My father led by example, and community service was part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am honored to carry on his legislative initiatives. In addition, I intend to focus on job creation by strengthening workforce opportunities and small business in Hilo and the state, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for Hawai‘i Community College and UH-Hilo,” Kai Kahele said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Hawai’i State Senate leadership said it welcomed the appointment of Kai Kahele to the District 1 Senate seat.


“I congratulate Kai on his appointment to the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader, Senator J. Kalani English. “I know he has the best interests of the community at heart, and we will work with him to ensure his transition to the Senate is quick and seamless. I know Kai was well-trained by his father to handle the work of the Senate.”

“We welcome Kai to the Senate,” said Senate President, Ronald D. Kouchi. “I know he holds many of the strong convictions and commitment to community service as that of his father. I look forward to working with Kai in his new role as Senator for the first district.”

“I appreciate the work the staff of the late Senator Kahele has been doing to serve the constituents of District 1 during this time and I know they will be important in continuing to provide support for Kai as we move forward this Session,” said Senator Kouchi.

Once the oath of office is administered, Kai Kahele will serve on the following Senate committees:  Higher Education and the Arts, Education, Judiciary and Labor, and Tourism and International Affairs.

Kai Kahele resides in Hilo and will take office once the state senate qualifies him and administers the oath of office.

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