Republican gubernatorial candidate Duke Aiona told a group of supporters Wednesday in Hilo that he expects a close finish in the Nov. 4 General Election.
The governor’s race is considered a three-way contest between Aiona, Democrat David Ige and Independent Mufi Hannemann.
A recent poll showed Aiona in the lead with 41 percent of registered voters favoring him.
Aiona, speaking to about 25 people at a gathering for small-business owners, said the poll was a “snapshot” and that the campaign shouldn’t be complacent as it gets closer to the final stretch.
“What does that mean? Every vote counts,” he said at the Big Island Trading Company on Kamehameha Avenue.
Aiona was the lieutenant governor under Gov. Linda Lingle from 2002 to 2010.
He said that means he has more experience in the executive branch than the other candidates.
“I saw the tough decisions that had to be made,” Aiona said. “That means I have the experience that (state) Sen. David Ige doesn’t have and that Mufi doesn’t have.”
Hannemann remains a wild card in the race, and opinions were mixed at the gathering as to whether his candidacy will pull votes away from Aiona or Ige.
“That’s the big worry,” said Pat Aiona, Duke Aiona’s Big Island campaign coordinator and cousin.
Duke Aiona lost to Neil Abercrombie in the 2010 election.
Pat Aiona, owner of Aiona Car Sales, said his cousin has a better shot this time around.
“I don’t think there are more (Republicans),” he said. “I think there are more disgruntled Democrats.”
Pat Aiona said there’s also more drive surrounding the campaign, and momentum was referenced several times by Duke Aiona and his running mate, Elwin Ahu.
“We see there’s momentum … because people finally have a say,” Ahu said.
While addressing the group, Duke Aiona said the state should eliminate tax on the sale of food and that it needs to do more to tackle its unfunded liabilities.
He also criticized the roll out of the state’s health connector, but he did not call for eliminating it.
“We need to be objective,” the candidate said. “We need to decide what’s best for the people of Hawaii.”
When asked what he thinks will make the difference this election, Aiona emphasized his time as lieutenant governor, but he also said he believes the political climate is different.
“People want hope, they want change,” he said. “They do not want more of the same.”
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.