James ‘Duke’ Aiona: A Wise and Trusted Partner

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    By Gov. Linda Lingle – Ever since Duke and I were elected in 2002, it quickly became clear to me that he had an inquisitive and analytical mind, a kind heart and was a natural leader who would always do what was in the public interest.

    Duke and I decided early on that Hawai’i’s governor-lieutenant governor political model was one that should be based on teamwork and collaboration.


    For more than a quarter of a century before our election, governors and lieutenant governors tolerated each other at best, and didn’t form the kind of partnership that would have best served the public.

    We knew that our model of a respectful partnership was in the public interest, and in the process, we also became good friends.

    Duke’s advice and counsel have been invaluable to me in the most critical of times, and while he does not feel the need to go to the press with every disagreement, he is not one to shy away from expressing his opinion.

    In addition to spearheading the effort to combat illicit drugs in our communities and focusing on initiatives to help strengthen families, Duke spent much of our first term learning about all aspects of state government and working directly with me and my Cabinet on a wide array of issues.

    Neither of his potential opponents comes close to possessing his expertise about the current programs, policies and challenges facing the state government.

    However, unlike his two potential opponents, Duke has not sought credit or accolades for his work.

    Duke and I won re-election in 2006, having done what no other governor-lieutenant governor team has ever done in state history: win in every one of the 51 state House districts. The voters recognized they were electing a team, not just one individual.

    Following our re-election, he and I met to talk about the areas he hoped to concentrate on during our second term.

    He said he wanted to take the lead in the areas of civil defense, health-related issues including drug and alcohol abuse, the development of an aerospace industry, and Science, Technology and Math (STEM) education. We agreed on these areas of focus, and he later joined me in a passionate support of energy independence.

    Your editorial was erroneous when it said Duke should have focused on “more complex issues like energy independence, economic diversification and improving public education” rather than focusing on the health of Hawai’i’s citizens and the well-being of our children. In actuality, we both engaged in these areas.

    Those in and out of government who think deeply about our state and nation’s economic future know that the health and well-being of our citizens will have a dramatic impact on our economy because health and human services make up such a large part of our state and national budgets.

    Experts agree the most effective way to bring down the cost of health care, the largest expenditure for businesses after salaries, is a healthier workforce. Duke’s focus on better health is not an isolated issue but rather one of the cornerstones of a stronger economy.

    As your editorial stated, Duke spent a lot of time in classrooms across the state. As the father of four and a former coach of young athletes, he has a wonderful ability to connect with children and teenagers.

    I am grateful to have had a person of his caliber at my side these past seven and a half years. Duke’s previous service as a prosecutor and state judge means he has seen many of the challenges being faced by young people and their families and it is part of what drives him to want to lead Hawai’i in the years ahead.

    Far from being disassociated with the most significant decisions of our administration as your editorial falsely asserted, Duke is an individual I have always trusted and relied on for his wisdom and counsel.

    He is not a professional politician, but a thoughtful and experienced leader. He is a person of integrity who is firmly steeped in family values.

    I believe the people of Hawai’i would be fortunate to have him as our next governor.