Lt. Gov. Josh Green will be the ninth governor of Hawaii.

Green and his running mate, state Rep. Sylvia Luke, bested Republicans Duke Aiona and Seaula Jr. Tupa‘i 63.9% to 34.7%.

Green, a medical doctor, propelled himself to an early lead this election cycle thanks in large part to his work managing the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the last two years. He promised that he, along with his team, will face other challenges facing the state head on.

“We’ll charge full steam into the storm, into every crisis that arises,” Green said to a cheering crowd at the Honolulu Convention Center.

Lt. Governor elect Sylvia Luke and Governor elect Josh Green at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Green and running mate Sylvia Luke handily defeated Republicans Duke Aiona and Junior Tupa’i on Tuesday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

He promised a “new era” in Hawaii politics, one in which elected leaders do more to “make a difference in your life.”

Perhaps the biggest promise Green made is one that has eluded every administration, even before statehood. That being the 100-year-old promise made in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1921 to put Native Hawaiians in homesteads. The Legislature recently awarded the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands $600 million in an effort to reduce a housing waitlist that has grown to more than 28,000 applicants.

“Many gave up hope that they would get on the lands promised to them more than 100 years ago,” Green said. “Sylvia and I will deliver on that promise and that hope.”

In August, he won the nomination for the Democratic Party beating Kai Kahele and Vicky Cayetano after a contentious primary election.

Shortly before the vote, Kahele and Cayetano teamed up to question Green’s outside sources of income from a medical association and as a doctor during his tenure as a state senator and then as lieutenant governor, although all three candidates derived some sources of income outside of their regular jobs.

A years-long fundraising effort also helped Green’s campaign. Since late 2018, He raised more than $4.1 million compared to Aiona, who decided to run late and raised $282,000 this year.

Luke – who spent more than two decades in the Legislature, the latter half atop the perch of the powerful House Finance Committee – also endured political attack ads. A construction union-affiliated super PAC spent more than $2 million on ads attacking Luke and supporting one of her opponents. Ironically, the same super PAC supported Green’s last two campaigns.

Green and Luke campaigned on promises to increase the availability of affordable housing in the state and control tourism, in part by proposing new fees for visitors.

“You will have a team that will work harder than you have seen anyone work,” Luke said during her victory speech.

This was Aiona’s third run at the governor’s office. He previously ran in 2010 and 2014. This year, he entered the race late, filing nomination papers on the last day possible. At the time, he said he’s running because the state had “a lack of a moral compass.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona conceded the election to Democrat Josh Green in a speech to supporters Tuesday night. David Croxford/Civil Beat/2022

Aiona and Tupa‘i  promised to be a change from the Democrats, some of whom were convicted this year on public corruption charges.

It’s a message that the state’s last Republican governor, Linda Lingle, used to propel herself to higher office. But it doesn’t appear that Aiona will pull off the same kind of upset his former boss orchestrated 20 years ago.

A small crowd gathered at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu for Aiona and Tupa‘i’s election night party sat mostly silent as the first round of results were announced. Aiona addressed the crowd shortly after. He flashed a smile but struck a somber tone.

“It was a fast and expedited campaign, I don’t want to focus on the mechanics of it all, we did the best we could. We gave 100% … we made it work,” Aiona said.

He thanked Tupa‘i, a first-time candidate, for running. Tupa‘i said he is considering running for office again.

“I’ll sit down with my team and my family, just take a breath. I have a newfound respect for those who campaign. It’s an arduous task,” he said.

Aiona’s wife, Vivian, said she was disappointed Aiona’s ideas for housing would not be implemented but hopes that the Democrats can fulfill some of what they wanted to do. The Republican candidate’s housing plans included creating more avenues to homeownership.

In an interview, Aiona also said he wants Green to tackle the state’s housing shortage. As for what’s next for him, he said he plans to spend time with his wife and grandkids after the election. He also plans to continue teaching and doing consulting work.

“I’m not going to stay idle,” he said.

Asked Tuesday night if the vote was conducted fairly, Aiona said, “I’m not going to comment on that right now — I’m obviously disappointed in what I saw. I need to process that. I don’t want to speak out of emotion right now, or without the clarity that I need to have.”

Packed First Term

Green will have a full agenda once he moves offices to the Diamond Head wing on the fifth floor of the State Capitol.

Green will inherit the state’s operating budget from Gov. David Ige, but will need to amend it to fit his administration’s priorities. An anticipated operating budget surplus and a healthy rainy day fund may aid his administration’s first go-round with the budget.

Along with a new budget, he’ll also inherit some unfinished projects from the previous administration. The state still needs to figure out how to move forward with construction of a new Aloha Stadium, the process for which had a wrench thrown into it last month when Ige abruptly decided to change directions on how to procure construction services for the new stadium.

Green will also have a role in deciding how to spend $600 million to build more homes on Hawaiian homelands, and how to resolve other long standing issues over Mauna Kea and a standoff that has stalled construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

He’ll also be making lots of new hires, namely new heads for 16 of the state’s departments that oversee facets of government including prisons, natural resource management and agriculture. Green told Hawaii News Now that he hopes to have acting directors installed by the time he’s inaugurated Dec. 5. Most of his cabinet appointees will have to face confirmation votes in the Senate next year.

The new governor will also have at least three appointments to the Hawaii Supreme Court, including the decision of who should be the next chief justice.

Civil Beat reporter Alicia Lou contributed to this story.

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