The candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Hawaii run separately in the primary election, and then the winners of both primaries then run as a team in the general election, which can be a dilemma for the junior partner if they are not who the gubernatorial nominee preferred to be their running mate. And, being elected as part of a ticket can mean multiple or few unofficial responsibilities for the state’s second-in-command, depending upon their relationship. If there is mutual trust in the relationship, the lieutenant governor will take on assignments entrusted to them by the governor above and beyond their official duties. But, if their relationship is weak, acrimony can easily end up being the result. Political history in Hawaii since statehood provides us some examples.
First, the relations between Governor John Burns and his first lieutenant governor, William Quinn, appear to have been so strong that Burns entrusted the care of the state judiciary to him by appointing Quinn as chief justice of the supreme court in 1966. On the other hand, Quinn’s successor as lieutenant governor, Tom Gill, was not Burn’s choice in the 1966 primary, and thus the pragmatic Burns and progressive Gill endured a stormy relationship for four years, culminating in an unsuccessful campaign by the lieutenant governor against Burns in the 1970 governor’s primary election. However, Gill’s successor as lieutenant governor, George Ariyoshi, who was Burn’s preferred lieutenant governor candidate in the 1970 primary, apparently served so capably that Burns didn’t hesitate when he stepped down as governor late in 1973 facing a terminal illness and allowed Ariyoshi to become acting governor until he was elected to the office in his own right in 1974.
Interestingly, Ariyoshi cycled through three lieutenant governors in his three terms, but the relationship he endured with Jean King (the first female lieutenant governor in the state’s history from 1978-1982), parallels the bitterness that was the hallmark of the Burns/Gill relationship. King, like Gill, decided to run against Ariyoshi for Governor in 1982, and like Gill, was defeated. More recently, James “Duke” Aiona doesn’t appear to have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Governor Linda Lingle, as nothing notable can be found regarding any extra assignments he may have received, other than his mandated responsibilities. Aiona appears to have focused on substance abuse as his particular issue, and he organized a statewide conference on the dilemma and was named to several national advisory boards devoted to finding solutions to the problem.
Brian Schatz, the first lieutenant governor to serve under Neil Abercrombie, from 2010-2012, does appear to have enjoyed a trusted relationship with the governor. Abercrombie appointed Schatz as his formal liaison with the federal government, and as his representative to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group. On his own initiative, Schatz actively engaged with clean energy issues in Hawaii. Schatz’s successor, Shan Tsutsui, appears to have a more distant relationship with Governor Abercrombie. The governor tapped Tsutsui to lead a sports development initiative, and a field office for the lieutenant governor opened in Maui (perhaps as an incentive for Tsutsui to take the position when Schatz became a U.S. Senator), but Tsutsui also lost two staff positions in the recently approved 2013-14 state budget. On his own, Tsutsui has taken on after-school issues as a policy task.
This concludes my look at the lieutenant governor’s office in Hawaii. The next lieutenant governor to be assessed over the next few weeks and months will be California’s second-in-command.