Aiona to host birthday event
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona opens the second year of his 2010 campaign for governor tonight with a $100-per-ticket fundraiser at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Aiona launched his campaign last year with a round of fundraisers timed to coincide with his birthday. Tonight's event marks the former Circuit Court judge's 53rd birthday.
State Republicans say Aiona is expected to be the GOP's candidate for governor, although he has yet to formally file for the race.
But because state law requires persons raising money to say what race they are campaigning for, Aiona had to declare his candidacy last year.
Miriam Hellreich, finance director for Gov. Linda Lingle's two successful gubernatorial campaigns, is now a paid staff member for the Aiona campaign.
"We raised $6.7 million with Gov. Lingle, and we don't expect it to be any cheaper in the future," Hellreich said. "We started early so we could be well funded and have the money to win."
Republicans say that Aiona's campaign is likely to save money because there does not appear to be any primary opposition.
"I think the race will be in the general election. We expect the big contest to be the general," Hellreich said.
State Senate GOP leader Sen. Fred Hemmings agreed, predicting that Aiona will be the GOP nominee in 2010.
"I don't see anyone in the Republican Party that has more support than him," Hemmings said.
"He certainly seems like the heir apparent," Hemmings said, adding he is committed to supporting Aiona and that Lingle also has endorsed her lieutenant governor.
"I think the Republicans recognize that Duke is up to bat and he's paid his dues," he said.
Campaign spending reports filed in January show that Aiona has about $700,000 in his campaign treasury.
Aiona already held a fundraiser Sunday at the Fairmont Orchid hotel on the Big Island and plans to return to the Big Island June 12 for a fundraiser at the Imiloa Astronomy Center.
He also plans a fundraiser June 13 at the Kauai Hilton Hotel and a June 18 fundraiser at the Maui Lani Hotel on Maui.