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No free ride to top office as lieutenant governor


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POSTED: Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Half of Hawaii's six governors were lieutenant governors: George Ariyoshi, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano all started out as No. 2.

Now Republican Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona is hoping the legacy continues.

But, having LG in front of your name is no pass to Washington Place. Jimmy Kealoha, Tom Gill, Jean King and Mazie Hirono all tried to go from No. 2 to No. 1 and failed.

So far Aiona as lieutenant governor is following the loyal second-banana model to becoming governor. Ariyoshi really didn't have to do that because his boss was struck with cancer and Ariyoshi had to take over.

When Waihee was lieutenant governor he was scrupulous in saying nothing disloyal or untoward about Ariyoshi. Cayetano, however, was a different matter: He poked Waihee and in return was poked by Hirono.

Although Cayetano denies that he was motivated by expediency, when Waihee's administration was in deep political kim chee, Cayetano broke ranks and criticized his boss's 1993 selection of Sharon Himeno to the state Supreme Court.

“;Loyalty should never trump duty,”; Cayetano wrote about the incident in his autobiography.

It was also smart because Himeno was not the right pick and had enough tangled business and political relationships to worry even the state Senate, which voted down the appointment.

Cayetano got his own shot in the ribs while battling a 2001 teachers strike. He found his own lieutenant governor, Hirono, on the Hawaii State Teachers Association picket line. Supporting strikers, not the governor.

Today Aiona's boss, Gov. Linda Lingle, is facing as severe a budget crisis as Hawaii has ever seen. Public workers want a tax increase, Lingle won't bargain and the state budget is fair game for every labor lawyer in town.

Aiona, however, is just barely here. Last week, in fact, he wasn't here at all, but on the West Coast raising campaign bucks with national GOP luminaries. When he is in town, his schedule is mundane at best, mediocre at worst. He's urged the populace to prepare for hurricanes, said he is looking for the Hawaiian steel guitar to boost our economy and presided over innumerable poster contests.

The risk of holding to a record so bland is that while there is no reason to vote against him, critics will say there is hardly any reason to vote for him.

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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Wednesday. Reach him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)