‘We lack a moral compass’: Duke Aiona finally explains his decision to join the race for governor

Mahealani Richardson reports on the latest Republican candidate to join the race for governor, Duke Aiona, and the GOP's voting history and vaccine stances.
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 5:45 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 15, 2022 at 5:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Duke Aiona, the newest entrant in the race for governor, filed his nomination paper just hours before the deadline last week, but refused to talk to the media.

Now he’s talking, including about why he decided to run.

“This spirit that we have a lack of a moral compass has just compounded all of this and made it that much worse,” Aiona said.

Aiona says the other GOP candidates like MMA star BJ Penn and City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi are inspirational and he insists that his race had nothing to do with them.

Political observers believe the vote could be split, but Aiona says he’s running because the basic issues like the economy, education and homelessness have only gotten worse ― especially with a lack of local and national civility and transparency.

The 67-year-old former judge served under Gov. Linda Lingle 2002 to 2010.

He previously ran for governor in 2010, but lost to Neil Abercrombie. He ran for governor again in 2014, but lost to David Ige.

Since then, he’s been doing consulting and legal work.

It turns out, Penn’s family once supported Aiona’s campaign. Penn’s supporters say Aiona is a respected family friend.

Hawaii News Now asked Aiona if that made it awkward or difficult to run against Penn and others in the minority GOP.

“You hit it right on the head,” said Aiona. “So that made it difficult, yes. So this is why it was a very tough decision,” he added.

Tsuneyoshi told HNN she’s not worried about Aiona’s entry into the race.

“It’s hard to tell what the projections are in any race, but I’m very confident in our campaign,” she said.

HNN asked the candidates if they voted for President Trump.

“You know that’s really an irrelevant question at this point in time because he’s not president. You should ask if I voted for Presdident Biden because he’s the president in charge right now,” said Aiona.

When asked if he voted for President Biden, Aiona refused to answer.

“I think that’s for me in the voting both,” he said.

Tsuneyoshi says she didn’t cast a vote for either presidential contender in the last presidential election.

“I think Trump as a president did some very good policies. As we know there were some concerns about his personality. Now we see interesting scenarios playing out,” said Tsuneyoshi.

Both Tsuneyoshi and Aiona say they’re against vaccine mandates.

Aiona says he’s not anti-vaccine, but Tsuneyoshi questions its efficacy.

Penn has refused nearly all of HNN’s interview requests and thanked Aiona for his past service.

“I believe I am the strongest candidate running for governor, as I resonate with the people more than any of my opponents,” he said, in a statement.

On the Democratic side, the leading candidates are Vicky Cayetano, Josh Green and Kai Kahele. The primary election is Aug. 13.

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