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2022 Election: Duke Aiona

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  • Duke Aiona
Name on ballot:

Duke Aiona

Running for:


Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:




Previous job history:

I was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Deputy corporation counsel for the City and County of Honolulu; a State Family and Circuit Court judge for 12 years; solo practitioner, arbitrator and mediator; a legal and general consultant for various businesses; Vice President of Development and Recruitment at St. Louis School; and, Adjunct Faculty at Chaminade University.

Previous elected office, if any:

I had the honor of serving eight years as the Lieutenant Governor for Hawaiʻi.

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

Due to my experiences as a litigator, judge, Lt. Governor, father, grandfather, and keiki o ka `āina, I am uniquely qualified to serve the people of Hawaiʻi. My leadership style is objective, collaborative, inclusive, and grounded upon my experience as a state judge and mediator. I believe in the wisdom to listen, facilitate, and direct opposing views towards a common goal. In addition, my experience as a litigator has trained me to identify, recognize, and address the pros and cons of issues. Therefore, if I am elected, the decision process on issues and policies would be based upon what is ultimately best for all of the people of Hawaiʻi, and not on what the political “consequences” might be.

What will be your top priority if elected?

Bringing principled leadership to the Executive Branch through trust, respect, and balance. Establishing a vibrant and robust two party political system. Substantively, lowering the cost of living (inflation), increasing the availability of affordable housing, ensuring every child receives a quality education, and reducing crime.

Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?

The ever-rising cost of living is a problem that needs to be addressed now. The people of Hawaiʻi were already struggling before inflation made our state even more expensive. We need to reduce our cost of living by cutting the fees, taxes, and regulations that have driven up the cost of food, housing, and transportation. One action that would have an immediate effect, especially on middle and low-income families, is eliminating the general excise tax on food and medicine. Hawaiʻi is one of only 13 states that taxes groceries, and one of only 7 states that taxes groceries at the same percentage as other goods. We have been nickel-and-diming our residents further and further into debt, which has contributed to Hawaiʻi being one of the worst states for homelessness.

Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?

I would be supportive of this measure if it can be guaranteed that it will be reflected in the price at the pump. Hawaiʻi families are hurting from inflation and the increasing cost-of-living. This is one small way we can potentially help alleviate that.

What is your plan to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

I would continue to ensure COVID tests, vaccines, and their boosters are widely and readily available for anyone who would like to receive them. However, health decisions are personal decisions.

I would not support additional government lockdowns or mandates. The regulations implemented by the current administration have severely impacted thousands of our friends, families and neighbors that lost their livelihoods as a result of living in the state with the strictest regulations in the nation. In the height of the pandemic, Hawaiʻi had the second highest rate of business closures in the nation, resulting in thousands losing their jobs. Our keiki also suffered under remote learning, with Hawaiʻi reporting the 10th worst educational outcomes as a result of state restrictions. In addition, because Hawaiʻi was slow to remove restrictions, our economy has been slow to recover. Prior to the pandemic, Hawaiʻi had the third lowest unemployment rate in the nation. Now, Hawai’i ranks 39. These are direct results of Hawaiʻi’s overly burdensome and prolonged restrictions.

Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.

This question cannot be answered until it is framed in a better context. What is the means by which the number of tourists to Hawaiʻi will be slowed or limited? Depending on the means that is selected, is it legal? How will you determine the proper number of tourists to Hawaiʻi? Would we have different limits for the various Islands? And if so what is that number and how would it be determined? How do we decide who gets to visit our islands? This is just some of the contextual information we would need to have before we can answer this question.

How can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and what can state government do to support the effort?

While tourism will always be an industry Hawaiʻi relies on, the pandemic highlighted the need to diversify our economy to provide more certainty for kama’aina during times of economic downturn. Unfortunately, Hawaiʻi’s high taxes and fees, and the copious amount of regulations and bureaucracy have made it difficult for new industries to flourish in our islands. Getting government out of the way by reducing the amount of regulations, permits, bureaucracy, fees, and taxes sends a message to the businesses outside of Hawaiʻi that we are open for business. However, to do this requires the political will and a commitment in allocating the resources that are necessary to develop the infrastructure that attracts businesses and industries.

Also, at the core of creating a sustainable and vibrant socioeconomic model is the need to strengthen our families and improve our public education system, so that we can ensure our keiki have every opportunity to succeed in a diversified economy. I am committed to prioritizing all of these areas to ensure the people of Hawaiʻi can flourish.

What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?

With the median home price at $1.15 million, many local families cannot simultaneously pay rent and save to buy a home. In order for families and individuals to stay in Hawaiʻi, they will need to escape the rising costs of housing. A long-term solution is required. The Home Ownership, Personal Equity (HOPE) program would enable individuals and families to save money for a down payment on their own home, simply by paying rent. Over time, families will actually earn equity on their rent, providing for a down payment on a home anywhere they choose to live. Current affordable housing policies are only a band-aid and don’t solve the problem residents face with rising rents and long-term planning. Providing lower income and middle-class families with an opportunity to own their own home gives families and their future generations an opportunity to stay in Hawaiʻi; that is what the HOPE program does for Hawai‘i individuals and families.

This program will not require an increase in taxes and is expected to help more than 5,200 families in its first year alone. Over time, these individuals and families will be able to secure their own housing and achieve their dream of owning a home, ensuring future generations the ability to live, work and play in Hawaiʻi.

Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?

As Governor, my focus will be on fiscal responsibility. State government has a spending problem. Just as the majority of our families in Hawaiʻi have to do with their own budgets, I will make certain that the state government does not spend any more than we are capable of spending. And I will not increase our state’s debt service. Fiscal responsibility also requires us to analyze the expense side of our state’s budget.

What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

This decision did not change or amend any of the laws relating to abortion in the State of Hawaiʻi. In short, nothing has changed.

What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?

First and foremost, an independent fiscal and management audit of the Department of Education would provide an objective and transparent review and analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and improvements that are needed with the administration and fiscal management of the Department of Education.

After the audit, other avenues that should be explored are a reassessment of a statewide school district, a shift towards competency-based education, introducing career and technical education options at an earlier age, and requiring one of the members of the Board of Education to represent employers, so we can ensure we are equipping our keiki with the skills needed for future employment. However, we can’t move on to policy changes until we know what issues need to be addressed within the Department of Education, which is why an audit is essential.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make state government more transparent to the public?

Adoption and application of the sunshine law to our state legislature.

Another way to improve transparency is by improving data availability to taxpayers. For example, one reform I would like to see is a searchable database that includes information on all leases, revocable permits, tax exemptions and other commercial uses of state lands. Updated permitting and approval guidelines and procedures should also be available online. Increased transparency leads to a more even playing field for businesses in Hawaiʻi.

One commitment that I will make to the people of Hawaiʻi is that I will not suspend our state’s public records and open meetings laws, as the current administration did for over sixteen months during the pandemic. The people of Hawaiʻi have lost faith in our government and government officials to work for the good of Hawaiʻi, and for not their own personal interests or political ambitions. My administration will restore the trust, respect, and balance that has been missing from state government, but it starts by electing a Governor that puts these principles and values above politics and personal gain.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

If all aspects of the building process of the Thirty Meter Telescope’s construction have been complied with and the stakeholders of the Mauna are in agreement that its management will be pono, then I am in favor of building the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

Currently, Hawaiʻi’s political leadership and structure lacks trust, respect, and balance. One party dominance has resulted in corruption and abuse. The government mandates imposed upon the people of Hawaiʻi have created division within our community, families and businesses. Consequently, the electorate does not trust their elected representatives, creating a lack of respect for government.

My experience as a Lt. Governor, judge, mediator, father of four, grandfather of eight, husband of 40 years, and keiki o ka āina has provided me with the unique knowledge, skills, experience and wisdom that is essential to serving as governor. Accordingly, my decision making process is collaborative, inclusive, fair and impartial, with the critical element being what is best for all the people of Hawaiʻi and not what the political consequences will be. There is no civility in our political systems, and we are losing our moral compass. The Spirit of Aloha has been diminished in an area where we need it most. Rebuilding trust and earning respect, will bring balance and our Spirit of Aloha back to state government.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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