Duke Aiona

From Ballotpedia
(Redirected from James Aiona)
Jump to: navigation, search
The information about this individual is current as of when his or her last campaign ended. See anything that needs updating? Send a correction to our editors
Duke Aiona
James Aiona, Lt. Governor of Hawaii,speaks to survivors.jpg
Candidate for
Governor of Hawaii
PredecessorMazie Hirono
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 4, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
December 4, 2002 – December 6, 2010
High schoolSaint Louis School
Bachelor'sUniversity of the Pacific
J.D.University of Hawaii at Mānoa
Date of birthJune 8, 1955
Place of birthPearl City, Hawaii
Personal website
Campaign website
James R. "Duke" Aiona, Jr. (born June 8, 1955, in Pearl City, Hawaii), is the former Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii. He was first elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. Aiona lost his first bid for Governor of Hawaii in 2010, losing to Democrat Neil Abercrombie in the general election on November 2, 2010. Abercrombie was ousted in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary; Aiona ran to replace him in the 2014 general election, but again was unsuccessful.

On August 9, 2014, Aiona became the Republican nominee for governor for the second cycle in a row.[1] He faced two opponents in the August 9 Republican primary, and won with 97 percent of the vote. He was defeated by David Ige (D) in the general election. Duke Aiona lost the general election on November 4, 2014.

Aiona first entered politics in 2002. He admitted that he did not join the Republican Party until just prior to the start of his primary campaign. His cousin, Sam Aiona, had served as a Republican member of the state legislature. Duke Aiona ran in the Hawaii Republican Party contest for the nomination to join the gubernatorial ticket led by former Mayor of Maui Linda Lingle. Aiona won and advanced to the general election in November of that year. In December, Aiona was sworn in at an inauguration ceremony at the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda to become the state's 10th Lieutenant Governor.

Aiona got his nickname "Duke," named after Dodgers center-fielder Duke Snider, from his father, James Aiona, Sr. He is of Chinese, Portuguese and Hawaiian descent.

Prior to his election as lieutenant governor in 2002, he was a jurist, serving both as an attorney and a judge for the state.


Aiona was born in Pearl City, Hawaii.[2] He attended Saint Louis School, a local Roman Catholic academy of the Diocese of Honolulu. Upon graduating high school, Aiona left the island to pursue a bachelor of arts degree in political science, which he received from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California in 1977. Aiona returned to Hawaii and graduated from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in 1981.

Aiona began his career as an attorney in the public sector holding various positions in the City & County of Honolulu. He was deputy prosecuting attorney for the state of Hawaii under Charles Marsland. In 1990, Aiona was appointed by Hawaii Governor John D. Waihee III to the Hawaii State Judiciary. He became a judge of the Hawaii State Family Courts and had exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving legal minors involving delinquency, status offenses, abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights, adoption, guardianships and detention among others. Aiona also oversaw cases of domestic relations involving divorce, child support and custody matters.

He was known for having upset defense attorneys for the way he talked to the juvenile defendants. He believed he was supplying them with discipline. "Our young people want someone to discipline them and tell them what's right and what's wrong," he said. "They really search for that and they really appreciate that."

In 1993, Aiona was appointed to the First Circuit Court in Honolulu. The Hawaii State Circuit Courts are the primary civil and criminal courts in Hawaii. Aiona became famous for his tough rulings for drug offenses. Aiona retired in 1998 to work in the private sector.


  • Saint Louis School
  • Bachelor of Arts, political science - University of the Pacific (1977)
  • Juris Doctor - University of Hawaii at Mānoa (1981)

Political career

Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii (2002-2010)

Aiona was elected Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in the 2002 general election, on a ticket with Republican gubernatorial nominee, former Mayor of Maui, Linda Lingle. On December 2, 2010, Aiona was sworn in as Hawaii's 10th Lieutenant Governor at an inauguration ceremony at the Hawaii State Capitol rotunda. He and Lingle ran together again in 2010, winning re-election to their second terms in the general election on November 2, 2010.


Personal driver's traffic violation

In 2005, Aiona's personal driver was caught on camera in breaking a new state law right after Aiona had made a public presentation about that same very law. Local ABC affiliate KITV reporter Keoki Kerr reported that after a press conference about a state law that made it illegal to drive a vehicle through a crosswalk with a pedestrian in the crosswalk, news cameras caught Aiona's personal driver almost hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk.


He was known as having a temper, but, according to his wife, he mellowed with age. [1] (dead link) He was questioned about his temper at his confirmation hearing for the state circuit court bench. Judiciary committee member State Senator Matt Matsunaga asked if Aiona recalled getting kicked out of a lawyer's league basketball game in the late 1980s. Matsunaga was satisfied with the explanation that it was a misunderstanding and voted in favor of the appointment.[3]



See also: Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2014

Aiona ran for election to the office of Governor of Hawaii. He won the Republican nomination in the primary on August 9, and faced David Ige (D), Jeff Davis (L) and Mufi Hannemann (I) in the general election on November 4, 2014.[1] The general election took place November 4, 2014.


Primary election

Governor of Hawaii, Republican Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngDuke Aiona 97.2% 41,832
Stuart Gregory 1.5% 640
Charles Collins 1.3% 580
Total Votes 43,052
Election Results via Hawaii Division of Elections.
General election
Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDavid Ige/Shan Tsutsui 49.5% 181,065
     Republican Duke Aiona/Elwin Ahu 37.1% 135,742
     Independent Mufi Hannemann/Les Chang 11.7% 42,925
     Libertarian Jeff Davis/Cindy Marlin 1.7% 6,393
Total Votes 366,125
Election Results via Hawaii Office of Elections.

Race background

Defeat for Abercrombie

Wavering approval numbers, key endorsement losses and the emergence of formidable challengers in both the primary and general election placed Abercrombie at the top of the list of most vulnerable seats in the 2014 gubernatorial election cycle. In the months leading up to the primary, inconsistent polling data and conflicting race projections thickened the air of uncertainty hanging over Abercrombie's re-election bid. Still, David Ige's upset by a 2-to-1 margin marked a stunning early elimination for the incumbent despite Abercrombie's 10-to-1 spending advantage.[4][5][6][7][8] The last time a sitting Hawaii Governor ran for re-election and failed was in 1962, when Republican William Francis Quinn, who, in addition to being Hawaii's first governor was also its first and only lame-duck governor, until Abercrombie. Quinn was unseated in the 1962 general election by Democratic challenger John Anthony Burns.[9]

In the aftermath of the primary, Abercrombie attributed his defeat to his decision to call a special session to legalize gay marriage in November 2013. According to Abercrombie, Republican opponents of gay marriage took advantage of the Democratic Party's open primary to vote en masse for Ige, who supported Abercrombie's push for the measure in the legislature. Abercrombie further argued that his absence in the general election paved the way for the Republicans to reclaim the governor's seat in the general election and ultimately block the measure's progress.[10]

Vulnerable seat

As far back as November 2013, several factors besides the gay marriage issue indicated Abercrombie could be at risk of losing re-election in 2014, beginning with long-time Hawaii lawmaker David Ige's entry into the Democratic primary race. Ige has been the state Sen. for District 16 since 1994 and currently serves as chair of the chamber's Ways and Means Committee. Abercrombie trailed Ige in each of the Democratic primary polls taken after the June 3 candidate filing deadline, including a Honolulu Civil Beat Poll of likely Democratic voters conducted by Merriman River Group about a week before the primary showing Ige leading 51 percent to 41 percent.[11][12] Despite having secured the endorsement of fellow Hawaii native President Barack Obama (D), more attention was paid to Ige's endorsements from ex-governors Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi. Both ex-governors are influential Hawaii Democrats who were previously considered close allies of Abercrombie.[13][14]

Controversy over U.S. Senate appointment

The notable defections of Cayetano and Ariyoshi may have stemmed from Abercrombie's controversial December 2012 decision to appoint then-Lieutenant Governor Brian E. Schatz (D) to fill the open U.S. Senate seat left by the death of veteran Senator Daniel Inouye (D). Abercrombie's decision to appoint Schatz meant defying Inouye's deathbed wish for the appointment of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his replacement.[15][16] Abercrombie was required to appoint one of three individuals submitted by the state party of the incumbent, and Hanabusa—in addition to being Inouye's stated preference—had topped the list of early contenders, therefore the governor's call angered some members of the party.[17][18][19] After the Senate post was given to Schatz, Hanabusa threatened a challenge to Abercrombie in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary nomination.[20] Although Hanabusa ultimately decided to pursue a full term in Inouye's seat in the 2014 election, a measure of residual ill-will toward Abercrombie may have existed among the state's Democratic elite and possibly affected his chances of winning a second term.

Aiona's second run for governor

If Abercrombie had survived Ige's primary challenge, another threat would have awaited him in the second phase of the election in the form of ex-Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona. Aiona was the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee and lost the office to Abercrombie four years ago. Aiona launched his second bid in early 2014 in hopes of staging a general election rematch with Abercrombie. Polls taken prior to Abercrombie's primary knockout reinforced expectations of a tight general election contest between the former foes.[11] On August 9, Aiona won the GOP nomination for the second consecutive cycle, earning 97 percent of the vote in a three-way race.[7]


October 15 debate

David Ige (D), Duke Aiona (R) and Mufi Hannemann (I) shared the stage during a debate sponsored by Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Many of the questions offered by University of Hawaii students were left unanswered as the candidates focused on criticizing the records of their opponents. Hannemann criticized Ige and fellow legislators for rising electrical costs and public school woes. He argued that Hawaii voters should question whether Ige could lead the way after struggling to resolve these issues during 29 years in the legislature. Ige responded that legislators have to reach consensus on major issues and that he was "running for governor because I know I can't do it as a legislator...I have to be governor to make these things work."[21]

Ige trained his attack against Aiona, asking why the former lieutenant has selected some policies from his tenure to support while claiming no influence over other issues. Aiona responded that the Democratic candidate should ask former Gov. Linda Lingle that question. He also countered that voters could ask a similar question of Ige because he was running with current Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui.[21]


Hawaii Governor - General Election
Poll David Ige (D) Duke Aiona (R)Mufi Hannemann (I)OtherUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
September 9-10, 2014
New York Times/CBS/YouGov
September 20-October 1, 2014
Merriman River
October 16-19, 2014
New York Times/CBS/YouGov
October 16-23, 2014
AVERAGES 43.75% 32.5% 9% 2% 12.75% +/-4.2 1,073
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

Primary election

Governor of Hawaii - Democratic Primary
Poll Neil Abercrombie* David IgeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
February 1-11, 2014
Honolulu Civil Beat/Merriman River Group
February 12-15, 2014
Honolulu Civil Beat/Merriman River Group
June 7-9, 2014
Honolulu Civil Beat/Merriman River Group (Survey of likely voters)
July 24-28, 2014
AVERAGES 40.5% 43.5% 15.75% +/-3.43 698.75
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

General Election Hypothetical Match-up

Three way match-up (includes Hannemann)
Poll Neil Abercrombie* (D) Duke Aiona (R)Mufi Hannemann (I)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Honolulu Civil Beat/Merriman River Group
June 7-9, 2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.
Abercrombie vs. Aiona
Poll Neil Abercrombie* (D) Duke Aiona (R)UndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Honolulu Star-Advertiser
February 1-11, 2014
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.


See also: Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2010 and Gubernatorial elections, 2010

Aiona faced Neil Abercrombie (D), Daniel H. Cunningham (Free Energy) and Tom Pollard (Non-Partisan) in the general election on November 2, 2010. Abercrombie won the election, with 58% of the vote to Aiona's 41%.[22]


In 1977, while attending law school, he met Vivian Welsh at a dance in Waikīkī. They married in 1982.[2] They have two sons, Kulia and Makana; and two daughters, Ohulani and Kaimilani. In 1998, he retired from his position as a state circuit judge, stating that the $87,000 annual salary was not enough to support his family. In 2005, the annual salary he received as lieutenant governor was $90,041.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term Duke + Aiona + Hawaii + Governor

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Duke Aiona News Feed

  • Loading...

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Campaign links:

Campaign Twitter
Campaign YouTube

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine was used to recall this version of the website from November 4, 2010.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Duke Aiona for Governor 2014 Official campaign website, "Homepage," accessed February 18, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Project Vote Smart, "Biography of Duke Aiona, Jr.," accessed January 30, 2014
  3. The Honolulu Star Advertiser, "Special election 2002," October 24, 2002
  4. Cook Political Report, "2014 Governors Race Ratings," May 16, 2014
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named reelec
  6. Real Clear Politics, "2014 Governor Races, Ratings Map," accessed June 30, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hawaii Division of Elections, "Primary Election 2014 Results - Final Summary Report," August 10, 2014
  8. Politico, "Schatz-Hanabusa race too close to call," August 10, 2014
  9. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Ige Holds Healthy Lead Over Abercrombie in Hawaii Governor’s Race," June 12, 2014
  10. USA Today, "Hawaii gov. blames political loss on gay marriage," August 30, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 Honolulu Civil Beat, "Ige Holds Healthy Lead Over Abercrombie in Hawaii Governor’s Race," June 12, 2014
  12. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Civil Beat Poll: Ige Maintains Solid Lead Over Abercrombie," July 31, 2014
  13. khon2.com, "HSTA endorses David Ige for governor," February 16, 2014
  14. The Star Advertiser, "Abercrombie loses support of former ally Cayetano," November 17, 2013
  15. Washington Post, "Gov. Abercrombie to appoint Inouye’s replacement," December 17, 2012
  16. The Washington Post, "Hawaii governor picks Brian Schatz for Inouye’s seat," December 26, 2012
  17. WMTW.com, "Inouye gave preference for successor before he died," December 18, 2012
  18. CBS news, "Inouye replacement to be named Wednesday," December 24, 2012
  19. Civil Beat, "Inouye's Last Wish Is Abercrombie's Biggest Burden," December 24, 2012
  20. The Hill, "Source: Hanabusa receiving 'a lot of pressure' to run against Abercrombie," December 27, 2012
  21. 21.0 21.1 Hawaii News Now, "Final televised governor debate had winner and loser, analyst says," October 16, 2014
  22. "GOP Now ‘Endangered Species’ in Hawaii: Democrats Win Big, Taking Governorship, Congressional Seat from GOP," Hawaii Reporter, November 3, 2010