Finding Votes Here, There, Everywhere

Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona with Mark and Mary Benson, owners of Honolulu Ford DAWN O'BRIEN PHOTO

Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona with Mark and Mary Benson, owners of Honolulu Ford DAWN O’BRIEN PHOTO

With a scant two weeks left before General Election Day 2014, Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona and wife Vivian found themselves lost on the eighth floor of Pioneer Federal Building in downtown Honolulu. They were trying to get to the seventh floor studio of Pinoy Power Radio, KPRP 650 on the AM dial.

Somehow, at 6:50 a.m., they’d been dumped on the eighth floor with no access to the seventh save the stairs, the fire escape or … who knows? Rappelling, perhaps.

They made it, however, just in time.

Aiona’s campaign sees Hawaii’s Filipinos as a potentially rich source of votes. They’re primarily Catholics, and conservative on social issues; Duke Aiona is a Catholic and conservative on social issues. As important, Vivian Aiona is of Visayan ancestry, making Duke, in the wonderful ways of Hawaii’s ethnically diverse politics, an in-law of Filipinos.

Aiona’s campaign helped pay for the KPRP hour, but the questions are posed by station staff. Aiona repeats his campaign mantra: He’ll return “trust, respect and balance” to the governorship, make it easier to buy a home in Hawaii through a “rent-to-own financing plan,” and help solve homelessness with creation of a “mobile homeless court” to complement the work of the counties.

Asked how Filipinos can improve their lot in Hawaii, Aiona — not surprisingly — says he is “fully committed to diversity,” and talks of his wife as an example of Filipino industriousness: She buses from Kapolei to work each morning, buses home at 5:30 in the afternoon, and cares for home and family.

“Filipinos work hard; they’re entrepreneurs, they own small businesses, and many have taken their places as doctors, lawyers and teachers,” says graduate of Saint Louis School.

Asao guides Aiona on a 45-minute grip-and-grin walk-through: Smile, shake available hands, and give campaign literature and a bumper sticker to any who ask.

Aiona is good at this. His manner charms. He smiles and shakes hands at the service desk. He laughs when one jokes, “Like to take a car home today?”

Asao keeps Aiona moving down a flight of stairs to the parts department, where three men scan computer screens.

Says one: “Hey, I saw you twice on TV.”

“My wife likes you,” adds another.

“What about you?” Aiona responds.

The tone is jocular. Aiona asks them how long they’ve been with the company.

“Too long,” says one, of a colleague.

Assistant service manager Henry Tabios asks Aiona how he feels about a racetrack on Oahu.

“I came out for it in 2010,” the candidate replies. “But you guys differ on what you want. You have to work that out — and you have to pay for it.”

“Racers are crazy about their sport,” says Tabios. “We’ll pay for it.”

In the service area itself, 26 bays hold cars in various stages of repair. Aiona is introduced to a half-dozen mechanics, some of whom are too busy to do more than nod at him.

Then it’s out to the service line, a picture with office staff in front of a red Mustang — and Aiona’s gone: to Honolulu Hale to cast his general election ballot.