VIDEO: Esther Kiaaina Front-Runner for OIA Assistant Secretary

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Guam – Guam-born Hawaiian Esther Kiaaina may be the next Assistant Secretary of  Interior for Insular Affairs.

A top congressional source says Kiaaina is the front-runner under White House consideration as a permanent replacement for Guam native and former OIA Assistant Secretary Tony Babauta, who resigned in February amidst a contracting and travel probe.  

HEAR Matt Kaye’s report HERE>>>08-27 kiaaina.mp3

Fish and Wildlife official Eileen Sobeck has filled the post on an acting basis, since then. A White House announcement on a replacement could come as early as next month.  

Kiannina ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2012 elections, after incumbent Mazie Hirono announced her bid to replace retiring Senator Daniel Akaka.

Kiaaina had served Akaka as his Legislative Director.

Former Interior Department Official and longtime consultant to the Pacific Islands Fred Radewagen.

Radewagen: “Esther is a very energetic person. Very policy oriented. She has a college degree from Southern Cal, Guam-born, but native Hawaiian and, a lot of experience in Hawaii and a lot of executive experience and political experience.”

And Radewagen says, she should have little difficulty if  President Obama nominates her.

Radewagen: “I would think that Esther would sail through a Senate confirmation hearing. She is highly regarded. She has a, very much, a policy orientation and would come in and be able to hit the ground, running.”

Radewagen says, whether its immigration issues like visa waiver for Russian tourists, continued status for CW workers in the CNMI, or Guam war claims, a permanent Assitant Secretary for the islands is key.

Radewagen: “…and, particularly, the appropriations fights…not just with congress, but within the department…where other assistant secretaries are fighting for their share of the interior ‘pie,’ as well. And, if you don’t have a permanent Assistant Secretary, there, who is at the equivalent level of others who are fighting for their share, it puts OIA at a disadvantage.”

Radewagen says appropriations will be an “important factor” in government decision-making for the foreseeable future. And resources,  Radewagen concludes, “continue to dwindle.”