So far, only two Republicans have pulled papers to seek the lieutenant governor’s job, neither of them brand names. That could be bad news for Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, who is running to succeed Gov. Linda Lingle.

Whoever wins the GOP primary would be his running mate. Granted, people generally vote for the top of the ticket. But the current Republican governor has seen her popularity plummet, so Aiona, running against either Democrat Neil Abercrombie or Mufi Hannemann, may need all the help he can get. The national group CQ Politics says the chances that Hawaii’s next gov will be a Democrat are “likely.”

Dems’ chances may be helped by the fact that four well-known Democrats are off and running for the state’s No. 2 job, and several more have said they’re getting in, too.

Contested primaries are usually good for political parties. When Aiona emerged on the political front in 2002, after gaining praise for his service as a Family Court judge, he was an attractive candidate who paired well with Lingle.

But first he had to hold off two plausible candidates, TV journalist Dalton Tanonaka and state legislator Cam Cavasso, in the Republican primary. That gave him a little seasoning against his general election opponent, Matt Matsunaga.

Am I underestimating Aiona’s ballot strength?

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