The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is a semi-autonomous government agency in Hawaii established to serve native Hawaiians. In the 2022 election, former NFL player Chad Owens made a high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful run for one of OHA’s at-large seats on its Board of Trustees.
Owens, who is of native Hawaiian descent, campaigned on a platform of transparency, accountability, and better management of OHA’s resources. However, he lost in the November 8 general election, coming in 5th among 6 candidates.
Owens’ candidacy provides an interesting case study on running for OHA office as a non-traditional candidate. This article will analyze Owens’ background, his campaign, factors leading to his defeat, and what his run means for future elections.
Background on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs was established by an amendment to the Hawaii state constitution in 1978. Its purpose is to work for the betterment of native Hawaiians in areas like education, health, economics, and land management.
OHA is governed by a 9-member Board of Trustees, with trustees serving 4-year terms. Seven trustees are elected from specific geographic districts across Hawaii. The other two are elected in a statewide at-large election.
The 2022 election was for the at-large seats. This meant Owens had to campaign and win votes across the entire state of Hawaii rather than just one district.
Chad Owens’ Previous Political Campaigns
Before running for OHA in 2022, Chad Owens had sought elected office in Hawaii twice before without success.
In 2010, Owens ran in the Democratic primary for Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost to Colleen Hanabusa, who went on to win the general election.
Two years later in 2012, Owens ran for the Honolulu City Council in a special election. He finished third out of three candidates, behind Stanley Chang and Charles Djou, who won the seat.
Despite these losses, Owens gained valuable campaign experience and name recognition heading into the 2022 OHA election. His profile as a former NFL player for the Hawaii team also helped boost his candidacy.
The 2022 OHA Election
Six candidates competed in the August 2022 nonpartisan primary for two OHA at-large seats. The top two vote-getters were John Waihee IV, a former OHA trustee, and Leina’ala Ahu Isa, an attorney.
Chad Owens finished fourth in the primary, narrowly edging out the fifth-place candidate to advance to the November general election.
The other candidates on the general election ballot were Brickwood Galuteria, a current OHA trustee, Sam King, a Honolulu businessman, and Keoni Souza, a professor.
Owens ran a very active campaign, focusing on what he saw as mismanagement issues at OHA. His priorities included fiscal responsibility, eliminating wasteful spending, and investing OHA funds wisely.
He emphasized his business background as qualification for improving OHA’s financial oversight. Owens also prioritized Hawaiian culture, education, housing, and the environment.
However, on November 8, Owens ended up finishing last among the 6 candidates. The three winners were Galuteria, Souza, and Waihee IV.
Analysis of Factors in Owens’ Loss
Chad Owens entered the OHA race with name recognition as a former NFL player, but a few key factors contributed to his defeat:
Limited political experience – Unlike rivals Galuteria and Waihee who had backgrounds in Hawaiian politics, Owens had never held elected office before.
Past election losses – Owens’ failed campaigns in 2010 and 2012 may have hurt his viability in voters’ eyes.
Keener competition – Well-funded candidates like Galuteria and Souza proved tough to beat, given their government experience.
Missed opportunities – Some analysts felt Owens did not do enough grassroots campaigning or communicate his policy stances.
While Owens lost decisively, his competitive showing suggests he still has potential for future election bids with the right strategy.
What Owens’ Run Means for OHA’s Future
Although he was not victorious, Chad Owens’ run for OHA office could impact Hawaii politics going forward in a few ways:
- Brings more public scrutiny to OHA’s inner workings and spending practices
- Encourages other young, new candidates to seek OHA seats
- Forces OHA trustees to focus on transparency and management reforms
- Gives Owens valuable insider knowledge if he pursues office again
- Boosts public awareness of OHA’s role in supporting Hawaiians
Owens has indicated he will not give up his dream of holding elected office. He says his 2022 OHA campaign will only strengthen his resolve.
In the high-profile 2022 Hawaii election, candidate Chad Owens was unable to achieve his goal of winning a seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. He ran an energetic campaign focused on reforming OHA’s finances and improving life for native Hawaiians.
While past political losses and tough competition hampered Owens, his strong fifth-place finish keeps his future prospects alive. Owens says he learned invaluable lessons about campaigning statewide and building policy platforms.
The 2022 race enhanced Owens’ name recognition and gave him insider perspective on Hawaii’s politics. Most agree voters have not seen the last of this ambitious, reform-minded candidate. If he sharpens his strategy, Owens could become an elected leader shaping Hawaii’s future.
What is the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)?
OHA is a semi-autonomous government agency in Hawaii established in 1978 to address issues affecting native Hawaiians. It is governed by a 9-member Board of Trustees elected to 4-year terms.
How many OHA seats were up for election in 2022?
In the 2022 election, Hawaii voters chose candidates for 2 at-large OHA Board of Trustee seats. The other 7 trustees represent specific geographic districts.
What issues did Chad Owens focus on during his OHA campaign?
Owens campaigned on reforming OHA’s financial management, eliminating wasteful spending, investing wisely, and improving outcomes for Hawaiians in areas like education, health, housing, and cultural preservation.
Who won the two OHA at-large seats in 2022?
The winners of the two OHA at-large seats in the 2022 election were Brickwood Galuteria, an incumbent trustee, and Keoni Souza, a college professor.
What’s next for Chad Owens after losing the 2022 OHA election?
After his defeat, Owens said he plans to continue pursuing elected office in Hawaii in the future. He says the OHA race gave him important experience to build on for upcoming campaigns.