Ben Cayetano

| Suggest an Edit

Updated May 2017

Ben Cayetano, a Democrat, was the fifth governor of Hawaii, serving from 1994 to 2002. He was the first Filipino-American to rise to the level of governor in any U.S. state. He lost a tough mayoral campaign to Kirk Caldwell in 2012 but established himself as the leading opponent of the Honolulu rail project.

His argument against rail was that it would cost much more than the projected $5.2 billion and he was right. By early 2017, the cost was estimated to be at least $10 billion.

Cayetano was one of the plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit challenging the Honolulu rail project’s environmental documents, claiming that rail planners did not adequately consider alternatives and violated federal law. The city eventually prevailed in that lawsuit and Cayetano and the other plaintiffs decided not to appeal.

In the 2012 mayor’s race, Cayetano received 45 percent of the vote while Caldwell received 53 percent. Cayetano’s platform centered on stopping the Honolulu rail project from proceeding, and pro-rail factions — most notably the Pacific Resource Partnership, a Carpenters’ Union affiliate — spent millions to defeat him.

PRP ran attack ads that have been widely viewed as one of the most negative campaigns in Hawaii history. Cayetano filed a defamation lawsuit against PRP and in 2014 the organization settled the case by publicly apologizing and, at Cayetano’s request, donating more than $100,000 to charities chosen by the former governor.

Cayetano was born Nov. 14, 1939. He grew up in Kalihi, graduated from Farrington High School and is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. He later went to Loyola Law School in California and returned to Hawaii to enter local politics as a Democrat.

He served in the Hawaii House of Representatives, then in the state Senate, then as lieutenant governor to Gov. John Waihee. He bested Republican Pat Saiki and former Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi, running as an independent, in the 1994 gubernatorial election. In 1998, he narrowly edged Republican Linda Lingle, who succeeded Cayetano as governor in 2002 after he was term-limited out of office.

Cayetano’s lieutenant governor was Mazie Hirono, who later became a U.S. senator.

Ben Cayetano
Cayetano To Trump: Cut Honolulu Rail Funds Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Cayetano To Trump: Cut Honolulu Rail Funds

UPDATE: The former Hawaii governor is asking the president to withhold $800 million in federal money for the rail project.

Caldwell, Djou Headed For Runoff In Honolulu Mayor’s Race Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Caldwell, Djou Headed For Runoff In Honolulu Mayor’s Race

The mayor barely outpolled his primary challenger, but neither candidate garnered a majority of the vote, so they both advance.
Caldwell Touts Democratic Support Caldwell For Mayor

Caldwell Touts Democratic Support

The Honolulu mayor is running campaign ads featuring Gov. David Ige.
Djou Gets Some Democratic Support In Campaign For Mayor Chad Blair/Civil Beat

Djou Gets Some Democratic Support In Campaign For Mayor

Ben Cayetano, Walter Heen and Ann Kobayashi want change at Honolulu Hale, even if their favored candidate is a Republican.
New Political Parties Get Their Shot On Hawaii Ballots This Year PF Bentley/Civil Beat

New Political Parties Get Their Shot On Hawaii Ballots This Year

UPDATED: The Hawaii Constitution Party, the Hawaii Independent Party and the American Shopping Party have qualified.
Pod Squad: Who’s More Local? The Discussion Has Just Begun Civil Beat

Pod Squad: Who’s More Local? The Discussion Has Just Begun

Defining "local" in Hawaii is highly subjective, but exploring the question proves enlightening.
Is Anybody More Local Than Ben Cayetano? Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Is Anybody More Local Than Ben Cayetano?

Hawaii’s remarkable ethnic and racial diversity and the social tension that comes with it is the subject of a new Connections thread. Who better to kick off that discussion than a man who has worked through it all?
Cayetano: PRP Super PAC Broke Federal Election Law

Cayetano: PRP Super PAC Broke Federal Election Law

UPDATE: The former Hawaii governor has lodged a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging the super PAC coordinated with U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono's campaign in 2012.
Denby Fawcett: Digging Up Dirt and Opposition Research 101 PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Denby Fawcett: Digging Up Dirt and Opposition Research 101

Political operatives who supply sleazy campaign fodder against opposing candidates can suffer consequences, but their goal is victory.
Hidden Super PAC Money Comes to Light in Campaign Spending Reports

Hidden Super PAC Money Comes to Light in Campaign Spending Reports

The Hawaii Super PAC that helped launch Mayor Kirk Caldwell into office and kept the rail project on track broke campaign spending rules in 2012 by not disclosing who it hired.
Hawaii Candidates Need to Sign the ‘People’s Pledge’ Flickr: www.flickr.com: DonkeyHotey

Hawaii Candidates Need to Sign the ‘People’s Pledge’

We can stop Super PACS funded by mysterious donors from inundating Hawaii with negative ads.
Former Hawaii Gov. Cayetano Settles Libel Lawsuit Against Super PAC

Former Hawaii Gov. Cayetano Settles Libel Lawsuit Against Super PAC

The Pacific Resource Partnership will apologize after spending millions of dollars on attack ads to keep the former governor from being elected mayor.