Aiona signals intent to run
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By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
By Kevin Dayton
With the last race barely over, the next one is already warming up.
Seven months after the Lingle-Aiona ticket easily won re-election for a second four-year term, Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona has signaled his future plans by filing organizational papers with the state Campaign Spending Commission to prepare a run for governor in 2010.
After more than four years as lieutenant governor, Aiona is nearly a household name. That will help in the campaign for governor, but observers said he may want an early campaign start to expand his political organization into a statewide campaign and fundraising network.
That may be particularly important because Aiona may not be the only Republican eyeing the race.
Ted Hong, guest lecturer in political science at the University of Hawai'i-Hilo, said Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle attracted a lot of attention as chairman of the GOP convention on Maui last month, and said former state Sen. Bob Hogue may also be a gubernatorial candidate.
"These are guys that still have statewide name recognition, and certainly it's going to be interesting to see where they stand in this particular race. I don't think the lieutenant governor has a lock on it, and that's why I think he's trying to get out into the community," said Hong, who campaigned for Lingle in 2002 and 2006.
With the next gubernatorial race more than three years away, it is anyone's guess who might join in on the Democratic side. Possibilities include U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, former U.S. Rep. Ed Case, Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann and Senate President Colleen Hanabusa.
Friends of Duke Aiona filed organizational papers with the state Campaign Spending Commission as a prelude to fundraising. Miriam Hellreich, finance director for Aiona's gubernatorial campaign, said a series of Aiona "Birthday Bash" celebrations and fundraisers are planned for this month, starting with one at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Thursday.
Hellreich said Aiona will make a formal announcement that he is running "much later."
"You have to start early to be able to get the necessary funds to be able to run a statewide gubernatorial race," said Hellreich, who was finance chairwoman of Lingle's 2006 re-election effort. "It is critical that you start early."
Aiona, 51, is a former Family Court judge and deputy prosecutor, and has been lieutenant governor since 2002. Republicans who saw Aiona speak at the GOP's state convention on Maui last month said he was talking like a candidate. Aiona has taken an interest in substance-abuse prevention and family issues while in office.
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, meanwhile, has filed organizational papers with the commission to run as a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.
Don Clegg, a longtime Honolulu political pollster, said Aiona's filing is early but not unexpected. Aiona has much work to do to distinguish himself and build his own base of support separate from Lingle's base, and faces a difficult fundraising environment, he said.
Clegg said Lingle may be limited in how much she can help Aiona. While Lingle has a good rapport with the voters, her popularity hasn't translated into wins for many other Republicans.
"She is very good at making herself liked, but she wasn't very good at convincing other people to like the people she likes," Clegg said.Advertiser reporter Derrick DePledge contributed to this report.
Reach Kevin Dayton at email@example.com.