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Editorial | On Politics

Aiona still not at peace with result of election


Ask Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona about competition and he responds like the trained athlete that he is. But ask him about whether he enjoys the game of politics and the response is different.

If politics is about competition and election to office is the ultimate victory, Aiona in an interview this week appeared distant.

"If you define politics the way most people do in the 21st century, I would say it is not natural to me, it is not within my nature. It is not something I was bred with and something that I grew up doing and felt comfortable doing," Aiona said.

As the election turned out, Aiona was drubbed by Democratic veteran Neil Abercrombie, a former city, state and federal elected official who happily rolls in politics like a dog in dirt. In the general election he beat Aiona by 17 percentage points, bringing Aiona to tears on election night.

Aiona describes himself as "still a little shocked" by the Abercrombie margin.

"I am still decompressing and trying to understand that. I am still not at peace with that (defeat)," Aiona said.

"I feel I let them down. I am the candidate. I should win this thing. But it is not like that."

Although Aiona agrees that politics as an end to helping improve Hawaii is important, he still is ambivalent about the campaign. The 55-year-old Republican former attorney and judge acknowledged that he didn’t really decide on his run for governor until his second term.

He also admits that neither he nor the administration of GOP Gov. Linda Lingle had tried to pump up his image to run for governor.

The Lingle administration, Aiona says, had not planned to feature the lieutenant governor in roles to help him becomes governor. Successful Democratic lieutenant governors running for governor, including George Ariyoshi, John Waihee and Ben Cayetano, all accomplished specific tasks that helped further their eventual campaigns.

"If that were the intention, we probably would have done things differently, but that was never the intention," Aiona said.

While Aiona describes his working relationship with Lingle as the closest between any Hawaii governor and lieutenant governor, Aiona says the Abercrombie campaign linking Lingle with Aiona hurt him.

"I don’t understand how people can’t distinguish a No. 1 from a No. 2. Everything was put on me at the end — I was responsible for Aloha Airlines, I was responsible for the Superferry," Aiona said.

Still, Aiona plans to try again, and if the circumstances look favorable, he will run for governor in 2014, but only governor.

Meanwhile, he says, he will work in the community and get an undisclosed private sector job.

Asked about his legacy, Aiona was humble, saying he would like people to consider him a good role model for Hawaii’s youth.

"I tried to model my life as best as I could for our young people in regards to eating right and exercising," Aiona said.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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