Aiona to run for governor
He has not announced his candidacy, but the lieutenant governor is starting to raise money
With a soft opening, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona has launched a campaign for governor in 2010.
Aiona has not publicly discussed his plans, but he has filed an organizational candidate committee report with the Campaign Spending Commission saying he is running for governor.
To fuel the campaign, Aiona plans a statewide round of $100-a-ticket fundraisers, starting with one Thursday at the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Coral Ballroom.
Dubbed "Duke Aiona's Birthday Bash," the fundraisers for the lieutenant governor, who turns 52 on Friday, will be held on Kauai and in East and West Hawaii later this month. A Maui fundraiser is also planned.
Asked to discuss his plans last week, Aiona declined, saying he was too busy with his job as lieutenant governor.
A spokesman, however, said the former state circuit judge planned to run. "He has every intention of running for governor," said Harold Nedd, Aiona's spokesman.
In 2005, Aiona said he was still uncertain. Asked if he wanted to be governor, he said, "I don't give it any thought. If it is like what I am doing now, I guess I would. I just don't give it any thought."
Running for governor is a step assumed of all lieutenant governors, whose principal responsibility is to step in when the governor is absent or incapacitated.
In the state's history, three lieutenant governors have gone on to become governor. Two others ran unsuccessfully.
Gov. Linda Lingle, who is prohibited by the state Constitution from seeking a third consecutive term, is strongly backing her lieutenant governor.
"I have encouraged him to run. I told him I think he would do a great job. He is more knowledgeable than almost anyone else right now in terms of the operations of state departments and the budget," Lingle said Friday in an interview.
Aiona has picked up Miriam Hellreich, Lingle's campaign fundraiser, who helped her raise a record-setting $6.2 million in her last campaign. Hellreich said working for Aiona seemed "like the natural thing to do" because she had helped the Lingle-Aiona ticket in the last two gubernatorial general elections.
For the first time since she became governor in 2002, Lingle is not holding her own round of June birthday fundraisers. Lingle, who turns 54 today, said that while she is encouraging Aiona and supporting him, the lieutenant governor will have to build his own team.
"I have made it clear that you just don't transfer support to people, you have to go out and earn it yourself," Lingle said. "If you see people helping him who also helped me, it is because he asked them.
"If people ask me, I would say he would make a great governor, I have no doubt about it," Lingle said.
Also looking for higher office is City Councilman Charles Djou, who has filed with the spending commission to run for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary.
Although Aiona is in his fifth year in elective office, he has not been a formidable political player. His only solo victory was the GOP primary in 2002, when he beat Dalton Tanonaka by 8,280 votes. Since then he has run with Lingle.
During the last campaign, Aiona held 11 fundraisers, and he now reports a campaign treasury balance of $142,000.