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Aiona tries to dampen GOP head's religious call

By Derrick DePledge

LAST UPDATED: 7:42 p.m. HST, Sep 1, 2010

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona acknowledged yesterday that comments from the state Republican Party chairman about Aiona's appeal among religious conservatives could be seen as divisive and said he is running for governor to serve all the people of Hawaii.

Jonah Kaauwai, state GOP chairman, sent a forceful letter to pastors and others asking them not to vote for former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for governor. Hannemann, a Mormon, has reached out to religious conservatives in his primary against former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.

Kaauwai, in a letter that was posted on the Hawaii Christian Coalition website, said people of faith should stay with Aiona, a Catholic, in the GOP primary and the November general election.

"Duke will win because the Church has been behind him the entire time operating in the POWER and the AUTHORITY of the NAME OF JESUS!" Kaauwai wrote. "We are the HEAD and not the tail; we are the VICTORS not the victims!

"If Duke Aiona does not win it will be the burden of the Body of Christ to bear so rather than preparing to have to deal with either Mufi or Neil winning the Church, we should be preparing for Duke to WIN. Neither Mufi Hannemann nor Neil Abercrombie is righteous and a vote for either in the primary or general election is succumbing to fear and advancing unrighteousness!"

Aiona, in a statement, said he would appeal to all people regardless of their faith.

"While faith is a central part of my life, I'm running for governor to serve all the people of Hawaii -- regardless of their religion," he said. "The goal of our grassroots campaign is to connect with every citizen in every community of this great state, and chairman Kaauwai's personal comments are seen by many as divisive.

"Our campaign is focused on families, friends and neighbors of all backgrounds, and we're going to continue to reach out to all the citizens of Hawaii."

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