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Monday, October 30, 2000

Campaign 2000

OHA race:
New rules and
a huge crowd

First in a series

By Pat Omandam

With a crowded field of 71 candidates, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs at-large races are kind of like the local schoolyard game of sham-battle -- the object is to be the player left standing after all the others have been hit out with the red rubber ball.

OHA logo Voters will have to choose three trustees out of 51 candidates in a special election to fill the remaining two years on the terms of trustees who resigned last month after the Rice vs. Cayetano U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the Hawaiians-only voting requirement for OHA elections. The other at-large race is for a regular four-year term, and voters will have to pick one trustee out of 20 candidates.

This is the first election where all voters can choose OHA trustees, and name recognition is a key factor in these statewide races. It enables contenders like former Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender; John Waihee IV, the son of former governor John Waihee; former Big Island mayor Dante Carpenter, and a few others to stand out from the crowd.

Stender, 69, vice president of American Land Co., makes his first run for public office although he's already a household name. The former Bishop Estate trustee played a key role as a whistle-blower in the state's investigation of mismanagement of the multibillion-dollar charitable trust.

Stender said there's a perception OHA is bad because trustees are losing touch with Hawaiians and their needs.

If elected, he wants to set up a board of advisers from the alii trusts to help guide OHA decisions.

If he wins, Stender said, he will work without pay. And he admits people have told him he's a tainted candidate because of the Bishop Estate investigation.

"I don't know what that means," Stender said. "I think I've made a difference in bringing a change in Bishop Estate ... I felt that the management of the trust was inappropriate for the trust."

Waihee, 30, makes his first run for public office. The bar manager has the advantage of his father's name. Former Gov. John Waihee's law firm is also on retainer with OHA.

Carpenter, 65, is a former Big Island mayor, state lawmaker and OHA administrator who was recently appointed to the interim board. In 1998, he came in fifth in a race for three at-large seats. He's also a delegate to the Native Hawaiian Convention.

Another convention delegate and candidate is Charles Rose, whose only other run for public office was in 1982 for the state House. Rose, 66, was encouraged to run after the OHA board resigned in early September. He hopes to bring a new kind of leadership approach to the board.

Rose is part of a coalition of OHA candidates -- comprised of himself, Haunani Apoliona, Arthur Hoke, Don Cataluna and Colette Machado -- who help each other campaign.

Former trustee and lawmaker Kinau Boyd Kamalii, 70, may not be part of a slate but believes her leadership experience can help OHA address the needs of Hawaiians.

Another at-large candidate, Denise M.C. DeCosta, community relations officer for the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, said the trustees who resigned in September all had talent but just couldn't put it all together for the good of the Hawaiian community.

"I think we just need to be more supportive of each other and the Hawaiian people, and build bridges with non-Hawaiians who also care for the Hawaiian people," said DeCosta, who unsuccessfully ran as a delegate for the 1978 state Constitutional Convention.

Meanwhile, former trustee Rowena Akana said she hasn't changed much of how she campaigns for office just because non-Hawaiians can vote.

Moreover, she said, most of those she's spoken to at shopping centers and at Aloha Stadium football games say they won't vote in OHA elections anyway.

"They don't think it's their affair," Akana said. "The ones that seem surprised that I asked say, "We can vote. too?"

For the next four days, the Star-Bulletin will look at the races for the nine Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee seats. For the first time, people who are not of native Hawaiian ancestry will be able to vote. Each trustee is elected statewide. This means a voter can choose a candidate even if the voter does not live on the island the candidate represents.

Bullet Tomorrow: Kauai
Bullet Wednesday: Oahu
Bullet Thursday: Maui and Molokai
Bullet Friday: Big Island

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

E-mail to City Desk

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