2018 General Election Candidates

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KIA'AINA, Esther
Name on ballot:

KIA'AINA, Esther

Running for:

OHA trustee

District (if applicable):


Political party:


Campaign website:


Current occupation:

Executive Director, Pacific Basin Development Coun



Previous job history:

Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, U.S. Department of the Interior, Obama Administration; First Deputy Director, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources; Chief Advocate, Office of Hawaiian Affairs; Land Asset Manager, The Kamehameha Schools;

Previous elected office, if any:


What qualifies you to represent the people of Hawaii?

I have over 25 years of effective public policy experience in Washington, D.C., Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands. Throughout my career, I have worked successfully to advance the interests of Native Hawaiians and help in the protection of Hawaii's land and natural resources through funding and legislative initiatives. For further information on my accomplishments, please go to: https://www.kiaaina4oha.com.

What are the top three challenges facing the voters you seek to represent?

First, the OHA Board of Trustees must restore the trust of our Hawaiian community, the general public, and Hawaii's political leaders. If elected, I will seek to restore civility in the OHA boardroom, improve financial accountability and transparency, and advocate for term limits for the OHA Board of Trustees. Second, OHA can do its part by working with county, state, and federal officials on affordable housing and homelessness issues through strategic funding initiatives and policy advocacy. Third, the protection of Hawaii's land and natural resources impacts all of us in Hawaii, so OHA can help on climate change adaptation, watershed protection, stream restoration, and invasive species management issues. OHA should also continue to advocate for an increase in its share of the state's public land trust, protect Native Hawaiian traditional and customary rights, and fight for kuleana land owners and claimants.

If elected, what will be your highest legislative priority?

My highest priority would be to advocate for OHA's fair pro rata share of revenues of the state's public land trust. However, OHA's Board of Trustees must restore the trust of our Hawaiian community, the general public, and Hawaii's political leaders in order to be successful in its advocacy. I believe I can help in the restoration of that trust and effectively advocate for OHA.

If elected, what can you do to improve the lives of your constituents?

Apart from all of the areas that I have already discussed in this survey, I would leverage OHA's funding resources by working with other Native Hawaiian serving institutions to improve the efficiency and use of all sources of Native Hawaiian funding. In that way OHA and other organizations can make sounder decisions in their funding priorities and obligations that seek to improve the lives or our Hawaiian community.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

I am blessed that my parents, Haunani Anahu, of Kalamaula, Molokai, and Melvin Kiaaina, of Kalihi, Oahu, provided me with the know-how and educational tools to thrive in this world, and instilled in me the core values that have guided me throughout my life - respect for all people, hard work, sacrifice, love for family and community, and faith.

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