The 2022 race to replace term-limited David Ige for Hawaiʻi’s governor pits the state’s current lieutenant governor against one of the state’s former lieutenant governors.
The current lieutenant governor, 52-year-old Josh Green, is a Democrat who was born in Kingston, N.Y., and grew up in Pittsburgh. He served in the Hawai‘i House of Representatives from 2004-08 and in the Hawai’i State Senate from 2008-18. In 2018, Green was elected as the state’s second in command under Gov. Ige.
The former lieutenant governor, 67-year-old Duke Aiona, is a Republican who was born and raised in Hawai‘i. He served as former Gov. Linda Lingle’s lieutenant governor from 2002-10. He also has nearly 12 years of service as a state judge and numerous years of service as a mediator and litigator. Aiona now is retired but does selective legal and consulting work and teaches as an adjunct faculty member for a local university.
They each want their turn to serve as the state’s top executive.
“I’m running for governor because Hawai‘i needs elected leaders we can trust — to tell us the truth, keep us safe and informed, to care about working families and to be transparent and accountable to the people,” Green said in response to questions from Big Island Now.
Green, who also is a Big Island physician, joined the National Health Service Corps after finishing his residency in Pennsylvania and was stationed in Hawai‘i in 2000. He and his wife Jaime have a daughter and a son. It’s the values of himself and his wife that he will bring to the governorship.
“Our values will shape the policies we propose, support and fight for on behalf of the people of Hawai‘i,” Green said. “Along with most people in our islands, we share the values of family, community, respect for basic human dignity and responsibility to future generations.”
He sees a future for Hawai‘i where “we can all rise together.”
“Jaime and I believe that Hawai‘i is one ‘ohana and we must always treat every member of our family with dignity and respect and listen to each other with compassion, even if we don’t always agree,” Green said.
Aiona, responding to the same questions from Big Island Now, said Hawai‘i is looking for leadership that will restore trust, respect and balance back to the executive office. He and his wife Vivian have two sons, two daughters and eight grandchildren.
“The people of Hawai‘i have lost trust in our elected representatives as a result of policies that resulted in mandates, lockdowns, loss of jobs, closure of businesses, increased mental health issues, drug addiction, suicides, domestic violence and crime,” Aiona said. “With the unprecedented corruption and abuse of power that we have seen in state government, the people of Hawai‘i want to fix our broken moral compass and restore our spirit of aloha.”
He said one-party rule has created the highest costs of living, housing and energy in the nation and made Hawai‘i one of the least favorable states in which to do business. Aiona said it’s also led to one of the highest tax burdens and one of the highest homeless populations per capita in the United States.
Green’s priorities if elected are providing more housing residents can afford and addressing the homeless crisis, supporting economic diversification that provide higher paying wages and creating a continuum of education for keiki that begins with access to universal, public pre-kindergarten and extends opportunity for all of the state’s eligible public school graduates to attend a two-year community college.
“Our housing plan incorporates a multi-pronged approach designed to accelerate home production, which includes: fast-tracking of new home construction with a streamlined and common-sense regulatory process, increasing the amount of public land available for home development and expanding home builder access to government financing and tax credits to accelerate the production of homes so we can provide enough supply to meet our demand sooner, not later,” Green said.
To address homelessness specifically, Green proposes building 10 additional Kauhale, or tiny home villages, and establishing medical and social work outreach for everyone suffering on the streets.
Aiona’s priorities if elected include housing, opening the state up for business and putting local, small businesses first and reducing the cost of living by eliminating the excise tax on food, medicine and doctors.
“By focusing on our local real estate market and tying the price of homes to our local wages, we will provide the local people with the opportunity to purchase and thus live, work and play in Hawai‘i,” he said about housing. “By understanding what the problem is, we can solve the problem.”
Aiona would not impose any more regulations, fees or taxes on businesses and would review and eliminate taxes, fees and credits that are a burden or have no economic benefit for small businesses in the state.
“I would be in favor of creating credits and exemptions that have a direct economic benefit for our small businesses,” he said.
On the Big Island, Green says projects such as the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, should be built and said the breakdown in trust in regard to management of Maunakea and TMT has created a toxic atmosphere that makes it impossible to have a rational approach to the problem.
“I want to listen to both sides with respect, build trust and cut through the impasse by working with both sides on a solution that will allow us to move forward,” Green said.
Aiona said: “I am in favor of giving the newly created stewardship and management agency an opportunity to develop and initiate their management strategy, goals and decisions for Maunakea and TMT.”
Both candidates also discussed how they would approach Native Hawaiian issues, including the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands waitlist.
“A history of unkept promises to the Hawaiian community has created division and mistrust,” Green said. “It will fall upon the next governor to help heal these wounds.”
He said the path forward requires addressing historic wrongs and reaffirming the state’s commitment to Native Hawaiians. Green will focus on Native Hawaiian housing and homelands, address health and social disparities, ensure the state funds debts owned because of ceded lands and integrate Native Hawaiian culture and values into the state’s decision making.
“We must act now because almost every disparity we can measure — economic, educational achievement, health and incarceration rates — show that Native Hawaiians suffer disproportionately compared to all other ethnicities,” Green said. “The Hawaiian people deserve better. The state must do more to support and partner with Hawaiians to overcome these burdens.”
Aiona said if he becomes Hawai‘i’s next governor, action — not promises — will be taken.
“As I have stated to many of the beneficiaries and Native Hawaiian grassroot organizations that I have spoken with, their voices will be heard and enacted upon,” he said. “It is a matter of political will and priorities.”
As to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Aiona is anxious to make a change to the lease that beneficiaries hold now and are awarded by unlocking the value of the lease.
“In short, removing the restrictions that currently are imposed on the value of the lease and how it can be used to attain finances,” he said.
Green said as parents of two children growing up in Hawai‘i, he will do everything he can if elected as the state’s next governor to help build a future he and his wife want for them.
“A more just, peaceful, prosperous and tolerant future, where every person has the educational and economic opportunities they need to pursue their goals and dreams,” he said. “Where we treat each other with respect and dignity as members of one ‘ohana.”
Aiona said by electing him governor, the people of Hawai‘i would make a clear statement that they’ve had enough of the status quo and one-party rule.
“My election will bring balance to state government, thus increasing transparency, integrity and most importantly competition,” he said. “It brings forth the best, brightest and innovative ideas.”
For more information about Green and where he stands, click here. To learn more about Aiona and his stances, click here.