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Hawaii News

Candidates want No. 2 job to have more heft


Brian Schatz would be in charge of maximizing federal and private-sector dollars available to Hawaii. Lynn Finnegan would like input on economic and education policy.

The major candidates for lieutenant governor both envision more prominent roles for the state’s No. 2 job, which has become largely ceremonial. The lieutenant governor once had oversight responsibility of state elections but is now the umbrella office for public records and handles duties such as name changes.

The lieutenant governor’s primary responsibility is to fill in as governor when necessary. They have had mixed success in developing public policy from their subordinate positions.

Schatz, the running mate for former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, the Democrat, would lead what the campaign describes as a "fair share initiative" to ensure the islands are making the most of federal and private-sector money and grants.

"There are great opportunities out there to bring in extra money to feed our long-term objectives of clean energy, a better education system and food security, but also to inject money into the economy in the short run," Schatz, a former Democratic Party of Hawaii chairman and state House lawmaker, said yesterday.

Finnegan, the running mate for Republican James "Duke" Aiona, the current lieutenant governor, said her legislative experience and her interest in economic and education policy could be an asset. But her main goal, she said, would be to work collaboratively with the governor and be prepared to step in as chief executive if necessary.

"You have to be prepared at any moment in time during the term to fill the governor’s shoes," said Finnegan, the state House minority leader.

Abercrombie, at a news conference with Schatz at his campaign headquarters yesterday, said Schatz would be a partner. Abercrombie and Schatz were both involved in Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in Hawaii in 2008 and developed a closer relationship.

"The day of the ceremonial role for lieutenant governor is about to end," Abercrombie said.

Aiona, in a statement, said the role Abercrombie sees for Schatz in maximizing federal dollars could create another layer of bureaucracy. "The most important responsibility for any lieutenant governor is to work collaboratively with the governor and Cabinet members to provide executive leadership for state agencies and be ready to step in as governor if needed," Aiona said.


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