Governor of Hawaii

The Governor of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Ke Kiaʻaina o Hawaiʻi) is the chief executive of the state of Hawaii and its various agencies and departments, as provided in the Hawaii State Constitution Article V, Sections 1 through 6. It is a directly elected position, votes being cast by popular suffrage of residents of the state. The governor is responsible for enforcing laws passed by the Hawaii State Legislature and upholding rulings of the Hawaii State Judiciary. The role includes being commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Hawaii and having the power to use those forces to execute laws, suppress insurrection and violence and repel invasion. The Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii becomes acting governor upon the officeholder's absence from the state or if the person is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office. Historically, the Governor of Hawaii has been from either the Democratic Party of Hawaii or Hawaii Republican Party.

The current Governor of Hawaii is Democrat David Ige, who assumed the position on December 1, 2014. Hawaii was the first U.S. state to have an Asian American chief executive; George Ariyoshi served three terms between 1974 and 1986. The state currently has had three Asian American, one Native Hawaiian, as well as four white people holding the governorship.


The Governor of Hawaii is limited to two four-year terms. Inauguration takes place on the first Monday in December following a gubernatorial election. A single term ends at noon four years later. There is no lifetime limit on the number of times a governor may be elected, but a governor who has been elected to two consecutive terms must be out of office for at least one election cycle before being eligible once again for re-election. A Governor is:

  • required to be at least 30 years old,
  • required to have been a resident of Hawaii for five consecutive years previous to election,
  • barred from other professions or paid positions during the term.


Flag of the Governor of Hawaii pre-1959
Flag of the Governor before Statehood in 1959

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor (running together on the same ticket) are the only two elected statewide executive officers in Hawaii. All other statewide executives (attorney general, auditor, etc.) are appointed by either the governor or the state legislature.

Also, the Governor of Hawaii has wide-reaching authority comparably stronger than the other governors in the Union;[1] administrative powers are more centralized than that of most other states with little authority devolved to the counties, and unlike other states there are no local school districts. Included within the governor's sphere of jurisdiction is the power to appoint all judges of the various courts within the Hawaiian judicial system, subject to Senatorial approval.

The state of Hawaii does not have fixed cabinet positions and departments. By law, the Governor of Hawaii has the power to create their cabinet and departments as needed as long as the executive department is composed of no more than twenty bodies and cabinet members. The Governor of Hawaii is also empowered to remove cabinet officers at will, with the exception of the Attorney General of Hawaii, who must be removed by an act of the Hawaii State Senate.


The Governor of Hawaii's official residence is Washington Place, a mansion that was once a minor royal palace of Queen Liliʻuokalani and her husband, Prince Consort John Owen Dominis. The mansion is located across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol, where the Office of the Governor is located, and is accessed from the Capitol through underground passages beneath Beretania Street in downtown Honolulu. Befitting of its history as a former royal palace, the Governors of Hawaii have entertained royal families from around the world at Washington Place including Queen Elizabeth II and Emperors Hirohito and Akihito.

In 2001, the new mansion for the governor was built on the grounds of Washington Place, after the state decided to turn Washington Place into a museum, an idea supported by then-Governor Benjamin J. Cayetano and family. This new mansion: Hale Kia Aina was completed in 2002 and Cayetano became the first governor to live in it for a few days before leaving office. His successor, Governor Linda Lingle, became the first governor to begin a term in the new mansion. Despite the building of this new mansion, Washington Place remains the official residence of the governor and is still used for state dinners and other official functions.

See also


  1. ^ Civil Beat article about the Hawaii governor's authorities

External links

1994 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 1994 Hawaii gubernatorial election was held on November 3, 1994. Incumbent Democratic Governor of Hawaii John D. Waihee III was prevented from seeking a third term as Governor due to term limits, creating an open seat. Lieutenant Governor Ben Cayetano emerged from a crowded primary to become the Democratic nominee, facing off against former Administrator of the Small Business Administration Pat Saiki, the Republican nominee and Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi, who ran as the Best Party of Hawaii's nominee. In a very close election, Cayetano narrowly edged out Fasi, who placed second, and Saiki, who placed third, winning only a plurality of the vote. Fasi's performance was notable in that it was the best performance by a third party gubernatorial candidate in Hawaii's history.

1998 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 1998 Hawaii gubernatorial election was held on November 3, 1998. Incumbent Democratic Governor of Hawaii Ben Cayetano ran for re-election to a second and final term, and he was contested by Maui Mayor Linda Lingle. The race between Cayetano and Lingle was close, but ultimately, Cayetano narrowly won re-election to a second term.

2002 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 2002 Hawaii gubernatorial election was held on November 5, 2002 to select the Governor of Hawaii. Incumbent Democratic Governor of Hawaii Ben Cayetano was term-limited and therefore could not run for re-election. Former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle, who had narrowly lost the 1998 election, was nominated once again by the Republicans while Lieutenant Governor Mazie Hirono earned the Democratic nomination in a tightly fought race. Lingle and Hirono duked it out in a toughly-fought campaign, with Hirono's campaign crippled by allegations of corruption within the Hawaii Democratic Party and many voters desiring a change. Ultimately, Lingle narrowly defeated Hirono in one of the state's closest gubernatorial elections, making her the first Republican Governor of Hawaii since 1962 and the state's first ever female Governor.

2006 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 2006 Hawaii gubernatorial election was held on November 7, 2006. Incumbent Linda Lingle was the first Republican elected governor of Hawaii since 1962. Although 2006 was a strong election year for Democrats, Lingle won re-election by a landslide owing to an economic rebound in the state that occurred during her tenure after tremulous decade for the state economy during the '90s and early 2000s. As of 2019, this is the most recent election in which a Republican was elected Governor of Hawaii, or won any statewide race for that matter.

2010 Honolulu mayoral election

The 2010 Honolulu special mayoral election was held on September 18, 2010. The election coincided with Hawaii's primary election. The winner of the election, Peter Carlisle, filled the unexpired term of former Democratic Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who resigned on July 20, 2010 to run in the 2010 election for Governor of Hawaii.Honolulu Managing Director Kirk Caldwell was acting Mayor of Honolulu on July 20, 2010, following Hannemann's resignation, until the special election was held.

2018 Hawaii gubernatorial election

The 2018 Hawaii gubernatorial election took place on November 6, 2018, to elect the Governor of Hawaii and Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii.

After prevailing in an intensely competitive primary election on August 11, 2018, incumbent Democratic Governor David Ige ran successfully for re-election to a second term in office, considerably improving on his margin of victory from 2014, in which he only won a plurality. Ige's vote share of 62.67% is the highest of any gubernatorial candidate in Hawaiian history surpassing the previous record of 62.53% set by Linda Lingle in 2006.

Ben Cayetano

Benjamin Jerome Cayetano (born November 14, 1939) is an American politician and author who served as the fifth governor of the State of Hawaii from 1994 to 2002. He is the first Filipino American to serve as a state governor in the United States.

David Ige

David Yutaka Ige (; born January 15, 1957) is an American politician serving as the eighth governor of Hawaii. A Democrat, he previously served in the Hawaii State Senate. In the 2014 gubernatorial election, he won the Democratic primary over incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie, and the general election over Republican nominee Duke Aiona. He was reelected in 2018.

Duke Aiona

James R. "Duke" Aiona Jr. (born June 8, 1955) is an American politician and jurist who served as the tenth lieutenant governor of Hawaii from 2002 to 2010. A Republican, he also served both as an attorney and a judge for the state prior to becoming lieutenant governor.

Aiona was the Republican nominee for Governor of Hawaii in the 2010 election, but was defeated by Democrat Neil Abercrombie in the general election. He was the Republican nominee once again in the 2014 election, but lost to Democrat David Ige.

George Ariyoshi

George Ariyoshi, born as Ryoichi Ariyoshi (有吉 良一, Ariyoshi Ryoichi, born March 12, 1926), is an American lawyer and politician who served as the third governor of Hawaii from 1974 to 1986. A Democrat, he is Hawaii's longest-serving governor and the first American of Asian descent to serve as governor of a U.S. state. He assumed gubernatorial powers and duties when Governor John A. Burns was declared incapacitated in October 1973 and was elected in 1974 (assuming governorship December 1974), becoming the first Asian-American to be elected governor of a U.S. state or territory. His lengthy tenure is a record likely to remain unbroken due to term limits enacted after he left office. Ariyoshi is now considered an elder statesman of the Democratic Party of Hawaiʻi.

Governors of Hawaii (island)

The Governor of Hawaiʻi Island (Hawaiian: Kiaʻaina o na Mokupuni o Hawaiʻi) was the royal governor or viceroy of the Island of Hawaiʻi during the Kingdom of Hawaii. The Governor of Hawaii was usually a Hawaiian chief or prince and could even be a woman. There were no restriction of women in government in the House of Nobles or Governship of the islands. The Governor had authority over the island of Hawaii, the biggest island in the kingdom, and it was up to the governor to appoint lieutenant governors to assisted them. The governor had replaced the old Aliʻis of the islands, but sovereignty remained with the king. The island governors were under the jurisdiction of the Ministers of the Interiors.

Hawaii State Capitol

The Hawaii State Capitol is the official statehouse or capitol building of the U.S. state of Hawaii. From its chambers, the executive and legislative branches perform the duties involved in governing the state. The Hawaii State Legislature—composed of the twenty-five member Hawaii State Senate led by the President of the Senate and the fifty-one member Hawaii State House of Representatives led by the Speaker of the House—convenes in the building. Its principal tenants are the Governor of Hawaii and Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii, as well as all legislative offices and the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Located in downtown Honolulu, the Hawaii State Capitol was commissioned and dedicated by John A. Burns, second Governor of Hawaii. It opened on March 15, 1969, replacing the former statehouse, the ʻIolani Palace.

John A. Burns

John Anthony Burns (March 30, 1909 – April 5, 1975) was an American politician. Burns was born in Montana and became a resident of Hawaii in 1913. He served as the second governor of Hawaii from 1962 to 1974.

John D. Waiheʻe III

John David Waiheʻe III (born May 19, 1946) is an American politician who served as the fourth governor of Hawaii from 1986 to 1994. He was the first American of Native Hawaiian descent to be elected to the office from any state of the United States. After his tenure in the governor's office, Waiheʻe became a nationally prominent attorney and lobbyist.

Josh Green (politician)

Joshua B. Green (born February 11, 1970) is an American politician and physician serving as the 14th and current Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii since 2018. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the Hawaii State Senator from the 3rd district from 2009 to 2018 and Hawaii State Representative for the 6th district from 2005 to 2009.

Lawrence M. Judd

Lawrence McCully Judd (March 20, 1887 – October 4, 1968) was a politician of the Territory of Hawaii, serving as the seventh Territorial Governor. He was devoted to the Hansen's Disease-afflicted residents of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokaʻi.

Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii

The Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii (Hawaiian: Hope kiaʻāina o Hawaiʻi) is the assistant chief executive of the U.S. state of Hawaii and its various agencies and departments, as provided in the Article V, Sections 2 though 6 of the Constitution of Hawaii. Elected by popular suffrage of residents of the state on the same ticket as the Governor of Hawaii, the officeholder is concurrently the Secretary of State of Hawaii.

The officeholder becomes Governor of Hawaii in an acting capacity upon an absence of the person occupying the office from the state or if the person becomes disabled from duty. Historically, Hawaii Lieutenant Governors were members of either the Hawaii Democratic Party or Hawaii Republican Party. Three have gone on to become Governor of Hawaii: George Ariyoshi, Ben Cayetano and John D. Waihee III.

Linda Lingle

Linda Lingle (née Cutter; June 4, 1953) is an American politician, who was the sixth governor of Hawaii from 2002 until 2010. She was the first Republican governor of Hawaii since 1962. Lingle was also the first female governor of Hawaii and its first Jewish governor. Prior to serving as governor, Lingle served as Maui County mayor, council member, and chair of the Hawaii Republican Party.

During the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, Lingle served as chair of the convention during the absence of permanent chair Dennis Hastert from the convention floor. In 2012, she was the Republican nominee for the United States Senate, vying unsuccessfully for an open seat vacated by retiring U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka.In January 2015, Lingle was appointed as a senior adviser to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, and left the position in July 2016. She also served on the Governors’ Council of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Lingle moved back to Hawaii in the second quarter of 2017 and became a member of Hawaii Pacific University's board of trustees in June 2017.

Neil Abercrombie

Neil Abercrombie (born June 26, 1938) is an American politician who served as the seventh governor of Hawaii from 2010 to 2014. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Abercrombie is a graduate of Union College and the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. He began his political career in 1975, winning a seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives. He served in the Hawaii House until 1979, when he was elected to the Hawaii State Senate. Upon the resignation of Cecil Heftel, who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives to run for governor, Abercrombie was elected to his vacant seat in a special election in 1986, but lost the Democratic primary for a full term on the same day. Abercrombie served the remainder of Heftel's term until January 1987. He served on the Honolulu City Council from 1988 to 1990 before returning to Congress in 1991. Abercrombie served nine consecutive terms in the House from 1993 to 2010, representing Hawaii's 1st congressional district, consisting of urban Honolulu.

With incumbent Governor Linda Lingle prevented by term limits from running for reelection, Abercrombie declared his candidacy for governor in March 2009. In September 2010 he won the five-candidate Democratic primary with 59% of the vote. Abercrombie went on to face Republican nominee, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, in the general election.

On November 2, 2010, Abercrombie and running mate Brian Schatz defeated Aiona with 57% of the vote. Abercrombie was sworn into office on December 6, 2010. Issues he faced during his tenure included the aftermath of the great recession and restructuring labor union pensions. In 2014, he was defeated in the Democratic primary by state senator David Ige.

Chief executives of the United States
State governors
(current list)
(current list)
Territorial Governor of Hawaiʻi (1898–1941)
Military Governor of Hawaii (1941–44)
Territorial Governor of Hawaiʻi (1944–59)
Governor of Hawaiʻi (1959–present)
Statewide political officials of Hawaii
U.S. Senators
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 State of Hawaii
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Sovereignty Movement


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