Candidate profile: James 'Duke' Aiona

James "Duke" Aiona
James "Duke" Aiona

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - James "Duke" Aiona was a Pearl City school boy with a bright smile, who became a basketball playing teenager at St. Louis School, and then a young man who met and married the girl of his dreams.

Today the 55-year-old Aiona said he enjoys life by enjoying where he lives.

"I am so blessed to be able to get up in the state of Hawaii," he said.

After two terms as Lieutenant Governor, the Republican front-runner is bidding for the big ticket. It's an energy draining, time-consuming run for governor.

"I really enjoy it in many ways because I'm meeting a lot of people that I would have never met before and speaking to people I would have never spoken to before," he said.

"He just seems like a real genuine individual. I think it's important to have those type of values when you're going to be leading a state," Aiea resident Megan Howell said.

Aiona is pitching a three-pronged platform: maintain integrity in government, invest in education, and help businesses and working families.

"I know what we can do with our state budget. And I know for a fact that we can make government much more efficient. We can make our economy much stronger and we can create more jobs without raising taxes," he said.

Without union backing, Aiona relies on an army of volunteers to spread his message.

But the campaign is just one thing on his to-do list. Aiona is still working as Lieutenant Governor. On the personal front there are chores at his home and the responsibilities of being a husband and father of four.

That's a lot to do in a 24-hour day.

"I try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night and make sure I get up early enough so I can take care of my personal business, which is to take care of my health and my well-being and my spiritual side," he said.

As a judge Aiona built the Drug Court program. As a human being he tries to build lives.

"It's easier to build strong children than it is to fix broken adults. I think about that daily," he said.

"He's the type of person that you can really talk to. He comes right to the point," Waikiki resident Grecia Hill said.

"This campaign has always been about grassroots and just the identification I think I have with everyday working families," Aiona said.

Between now and the General Election, Aiona will work his campaign game plan the way he worked a sideline coaching kid's soccer and jayvee basketball -- play hard and give it all you've got.

"We don't own anything, really, when it comes down to it. We are just stewards of everything that we have and we have to be good stewards in everything," he said.

Political experts said Aiona needs votes from Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats to carry him to victory.

If it happens he'll move up from the state's second in command to first in line.

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