Only one Hawaii Island candidate made it to the runoff in the race for an at-large seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.
Mililani B. Trask, who lives in Kurtistown, will square off against five other candidates, all from Honolulu, for one of the three available at-large seats on the board. She was one of five Big Island residents who ran for an at-large seat.
Trask, who served one term on the OHA board in the late 1990s, said she is the only neighbor island candidate who ever won an at-large seat. Generally, voters on the much more populous Oahu island secure their local candidates.
She said Monday that the way the voting is set up favors Oahu candidates, and therefore more OHA resources get devoted to Oahu, while needs go unmet on the neighbor islands. For example, she said she’s been working to get federal funding so that Molokai can get a dental clinic and a premature baby program can be created for Molokai and Lanai.
“On OHA, there’s a strong, strong bias on Oahu,” Trask said. “If we have more voices talking about the needs of people on the neighbor islands, on the Big Island, we will be more effective.”
She said hearings in Washington, D.C., over the Akaka Bill, and more recently trips by OHA trustees to the mainland to promote nation building, are wasting precious resources while Native Hawaiians live in poverty, sit for generations on waiting lists for homesteads and suffer high rates of drug abuse and incarceration.
Trask garnered 50,912 votes to come in fourth in polling, a position she will have to improve upon to secure a seat after the General Election. Some 45 percent of the ballots were left blank in the election held Saturday.
Coming in first was incumbent OHA Trustee John D. Waihee, with 81,052 votes, second was incumbent Rowena M.N. Akana, with 62,428 votes and third was former state Rep. and Board of Education member Lei Ahu Isa, with 57,798 votes. Coming in fifth was Kelii Akina, with 34,293 votes and sixth was Harvey McInerny, with 30,021 votes.
Other Big Island candidates were Lorraine Pualani Shin-Penn of Hilo, with 18,560 votes, Lahilahi Desoto-McCollough of Waimea, with 13,144 votes, Keikialoha T. Kekipi of Pahoa, with 7,631 votes and Alona N. Quartero of Hilo, with 4,681 votes.
Four of the nine positions on the board are designated as at-large seats representing the state as a whole, while the other five trustees represent each of the following districts: Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai, Oahu, and Kauai and Niihau.
While there are residency requirements for candidates seeking the district seats, all voters statewide are permitted to vote in each of the OHA races. All Hawaii voters, Hawaiian or not, can vote for candidates and run for the board.
Trustees are elected to their seats for four-year terms, and there is no limit on the number of terms a trustee may serve.
OHA’s nine-member board is charged with setting OHA policy and managing the semi-autonomous state agency’s substantial trust for the benefit of OHA beneficiaries. The trust includes more than 28,000 acres of land and $600 million in financial and land assets, according to OHA ‘s 2013 annual report.
For the first time, the at-large and Oahu fields were winnowed down in the Primary Election, with the top six at-large and the top two on Oahu moving on to the General Election. That’s because of a 2013 measure by the Legislature.
“The primary levels the playing field,” noted trustee Peter Apo, the incumbent and winner in the Oahu race.