Former US congressman makes a run for trustee seat with Office of Hawaiian Affairs

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Kaialiʻi Kahele officially announced his candidacy for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee representing Moku ʻO Keawe.

Kai Kahele with OHA Trustee Mililani Trask

In a speech recorded in Hilo, Kahele shared his vision for a more equitable and just Hawaiʻi, reaffirming his commitment to serving the Native Hawaiian community. His candidacy comes with a formal endorsement from current Hawaiʻi Island OHA Trustee Mililani Trask.

“It has been just over two years since I last stood before you here in Hilo, sharing a heartfelt vision for a different Hawaiʻi, a Hawaiʻi that does not yet exist,” said Kahele. “A Hawaiʻi not owned and controlled by the few wealthy enough to afford it, but rather stewarded by the many who choose to mālama it.”

During the speech, Kahele reflected on his journey over the past two years, which included service in the Hawaiʻi Air National Guard, his professional career as a pilot with Hawaiian Airlines, and his role as a faculty member at UH Hilo. Despite his focus on personal and professional endeavors, Kahele expressed his deep-seated desire to return to public service.


“Recently, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee Mililani Trask informed me that she was not seeking reelection to OHA. After several conversations, Trustee Trask asked me to run for her seat, pledging her support for my candidacy,” Kahele stated. “After much thought and discussion with my wife Maria, my ʻohana, and those closest to me, it became clear that when our kūpuna and community leaders ask us to serve, we don’t hesitate – we just do it.”

Mililani Trask, who has served as an OHA Trustee with dedication and commitment, formally endorsed Kahele, highlighting his qualifications and vision for the future of OHA.

“I am proud to endorse Kai Kahele for the position of OHA Trustee representing Moku ʻO Keawe,” said Trask. “Kai brings a wealth of experience, a deep understanding of our community’s needs, and a proven track record of advocating for Native Hawaiians. His leadership, vision, and unwavering commitment to our people make him the ideal candidate to continue the important work of OHA. I have full confidence that Kai will serve our community with integrity, transparency, and a steadfast dedication to improving the lives of Native Hawaiians.”


Kahele emphasized his belief in OHA’s potential to significantly improve the lives of Native Hawaiians. He acknowledged the organization’s past challenges but expressed confidence in its future under strong leadership.

“To me and many other Native Hawaiians, OHA has never fully realized its potential as a Hawaiian institution with the constitutional autonomy to truly serve our people,” Kahele noted. “But despite its shortcomings, I truly believe OHA is the institution with the greatest potential to make a difference in the lives of Native Hawaiians.”

Kahele highlighted his extensive experience and relationships at both state and federal levels, which he believes uniquely qualify him to serve as an OHA Trustee. He also reaffirmed his commitment to not ask for campaign donations, instead urging supporters to donate to families affected by the Lāhainā fires through ʻĀina Momona.


“This campaign will not dial for dollars, flood your emails asking for money, fill your mailbox with flyers, solicit, or host a single fundraiser. Instead, if you feel compelled to give, rather than giving to this campaign, please consider donating to a family from Lāhainā,” said Kahele.

For more information on Kai Kahele’s candidacy, visit kaikahele.com.

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