Updated at 12:38 a.m., Wednesday, November 3, 2004
OHA leader Apoliona easily re-elected trustee
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By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer
Haunani Apoliona, the Honolulu resident who chaired the board until its last meeting on Monday, took an early, decisive lead over her competition for the at-large seat. Kaui Hill, the Maui comedian better known as Bu La'ia, ran a distant second, followed by Frankie Kay Kawelo and John Sabey, both from O'ahu.
The most drama this year centered on the race for the Big Island seat now held by Linda Dela Cruz, who campaigned very little although she faced six competitors. Two other trustees, Colette Machado and Donald Cataluna, won re-election without opposition.
Dela Cruz held a slim margin over former trustee Louis Hao in the early count, but the margin widened by the time about 60 percent of the votes had been tallied.
"That means the people say I should work, so I will work," said the Hilo resident, who was on O'ahu to watch the returns.
Hao, who in previous terms held trustee seats representing Maui and Moloka'i, retired to the Big Island after a career as a mayoral executive assistant on Maui and other government posts. Reynolds Kamakawiwo'ole, owner of a private security firm, ran a close third.
Finishing further behind were the remaining challengers Kaliko Chun, Jackie Burke, Dickie Nelson and Kahea Kinimaka-Stocksdale.
Apoliona, who was watching returns with friends in Kane'ohe, said she was pleased that she garnered far more votes than in her previous two elections.
"The voters are probably happy and looking at OHA as going in a positive direction," she said.
However, Apoliona also noted the large percentage of blank ballots cast in the OHA races, indicating voters' decision to opt out. There could be various reasons for this, she said, including the philosophical decision by non-Hawaiians to abstain from voting in the OHA election.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision four years ago in the landmark Rice v. Cayetano case allowed everyone to vote in OHA elections, regardless of race, but some still stay away deliberately, she said.
The OHA races tend to run at a much lower profile than other statewide races, with votes cast according to name recognition as much as anything else.
However, the issues raised in media surveys have focused on candidate views about the way OHA trustees manage the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.
Apoliona said the board probably will organize its leadership quickly to resume plans for more community grants and to create a new budget. She cites the push for Native Hawaiian federal recognition as a primary focus, as well as supporting grass-roots efforts to devise a Native Hawaiian government.
Dela Cruz said she will launch again into pet initiatives such as supporting the Native Hawaiian registry project and advocating for the rights of Hawaiian homesteaders and the needs of Hawaiians in the prison system.
Reach Vicki Viotti at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8053.