James “Duke” Aiona

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James “Duke” Aiona was the lieutenant governor of Hawaii under Gov. Linda Lingle from 2002 to 2010. Together they formed the first Republican administration elected in Hawaii since statehood in 1959.

The lieutenant governorship was Aiona’s first political office after more than 20 years as a city prosecutor, city attorney and state judge. Aiona ran for governor against Democrat Neil Abercrombie but was defeated in the 2010 general election 58-41 percent.

Following the 2010 election, Aiona was named executive vice president for development and recruitment at Saint Louis School in Honolulu. He currently has no plans to run for office in 2012 but has said he may again run for governor in 2014.

Aiona was born on June 8, 1955, in Pearl City, Hawaii. Aiona has Hawaiian, Chinese and Portuguese roots. Had he been elected in 2010, he would have been only the second Native Hawaiian governor, after John D. Waihee III.

Aiona went to Saint Louis School in Honolulu and, after graduating, earned a degree in political science from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. In 1977, Aiona returned to Honolulu where he attended the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He graduated with a law degree in 1981.

After graduation, Aiona took a clerkship with Circuit Court Judge Wendell K. Huddy. He then entered the public sector as an attorney for the city of Honolulu. Aiona’s first position was as a deputy prosecuting attorney. He would go on to serve as a deputy corporation councel and a chief litigator. In 1990, Gov. Waihee appointed Aiona to the Hawaii judiciary, where he presided in the state’s Family Court.

Aiona was a key player in establishing Hawaii’s first Drug Court in 1996. Drug Court is considered one of the state’s more successful prison-deterrent programs. Aiona left the bench in 1998.

Between 2000 and 2001, the Hawaii Republican Party approached Aiona to run for lieutenant governor with Lingle. When he decided to run for public office, he told Hawaii411.com that his decision stemmed from a spirit to serve and a call to duty. He said, “It is something that has evolved over time. You may laugh, but I also believe that I’ve been pulled in this direction by a higher power … by God. I believe that this is a calling that I need to answer.”

Aiona, a Catholic, is public about his faith. In 2005, he took some criticism for saying “Hawaii belongs to Jesus” at a rally for the group Transformation Hawaii. In response, former Gov. Ben Cayetano told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin that, “As for his ardent Christian beliefs, pretty obvious that he is an evangelical Christian who has a tough time separating church and state.” Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Kauai Mayor Brian Baptiste also attended the rally.

Aiona is married to Vivian Aiona, whom he met at law school. They have four children.

During his two terms as lieutenant governor, Aiona took a firm stance on substance abuse. He credits coordinated efforts by state and local officials with reducing the number of discovered methamphetamine labs from 19 in 2003 to three in 2007.

Aiona held a Drug Control Strategy Summit in 2003 where he organized a private and public partnership to help curb drug use in Hawaii. He also served on the advisory council for the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In 2006, Aiona was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve on the Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities.

Aiona also co-chaired the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free, a national coalition, in an effort to reduce underage drinking in the United States.

Aiona also took a stance against House Bill 444, legalizing civil unions. In a written statement, he said, “If the Legislature wanted to establish the equivalent of same-sex marriage, they should have put it on the ballot for the people to decide. This bill should not be allowed to become law.”

Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill that July 6.

James “Duke” Aiona

Abercrombie Spent $4.6M on Winning Campaign

Final election reports show Democrat Neil Abercrombie spent $4.6 million on his winning campaign for governor, Republican James "Duke" Aiona spent $3.5 million.
Duke Aiona’s Transformation: ‘Praying at the Government Gate’

Duke Aiona’s Transformation: ‘Praying at the Government Gate’

Civil Beat examines chapters by Duke Aiona and Gary Okino in a book that details a religious group's designs on converting Hawaii's government.

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Another Road Block at Aiona’s Office

Lieutenant governor's office says it needs time to see if its expense records are exempted from the open records law — seven weeks after initial request.
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Let’s take a moment this weekend and look back, essentially six months after Civil Beat opened its…
Tight Races Attract $21.8M to Hawaii Campaigns

Tight Races Attract $21.8M to Hawaii Campaigns

Hawaii candidates for governor and Congress attracted at least $21.8 million in support this election year.
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What Recession? Candidates Spend Big for General Election

Candidates in Hawaii's governor and congressional races spent a combined $17 million to buy votes.
Abercrombie 50, Aiona 1

Abercrombie 50, Aiona 1

Hawaii's new governor prevailed in all but one of Hawaii's 51 House districts, the one where his opponent lives.
Election Night 2010 at GOP Headquarters — A Slideshow by Luci Pemoni

Election Night 2010 at GOP Headquarters — A Slideshow by Luci Pemoni

It was an emotional night at the Dole Cannery, where Republicans watched Duke Aiona and Charles Djou go down to defeat.
The Faces of Duke Aiona’s Supporters — A Slideshow by Luci Pemoni

The Faces of Duke Aiona’s Supporters — A Slideshow by Luci Pemoni

A slideshow by Photojournalist Luci Pemoni on the people who helped the Republican in his campaign to hold on to the Hawaii governor's office.

A Look at Late, Late Money Entering Races

Neil Abercrombie held on to his financial edge, pulling in more than double the amount of late contributions than his opponent Duke Aiona.