I wasn’t around back then to know exactly how this happened, but Hawaii’s writers of the state constitution decided we should elect lieutenant governor nominees to run in the general election with their party’s governor nominee. And they should always be of the same party.
They probably thought that was more democratic than the U.S. Constitution model, which allows each presidential nominee to pick a running mater.
Hawaii Constitution, Article V, Section 2:
There shall be a lieutenant governor who shall have the same qualifications as the governor. The lieutenant governor shall be elected at the same time, for the same term and in the same manner as the governor; provided that the votes cast in the general election for the nominee for governor shall be deemed cast for the nominee for lieutenant governor of the same political party.
45 of the 50 states have an office of lieutenant governor. In two of those 45, the speaker of the upper house of the legislature also serves in that capacity.
In 26 states, the governor and lieutenant governor must come from the same political party. In the other states, they are elected separately and may be of different parties.
Tennessee and West Virginia give the title of lieutenant governor to their senate presidents. The states that do not have a lieutenant governor position at all are Maine, Arizona, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Oregon.
I’d have preferred to have our governor candidates pick running mates — people they are comfortable with on major policy matters and with compatible personalities.
Our system works okay part of the time, and part of the time not okay.
Our first statehood election paired Gov. Bill Quinn with Lt.Gov. Jimmy Kealoha, who clashed with the boss from Day 1 and made it clear he could hardly wait to run against Quinn. He did, but lost. (He’d against lose in ’66 in a run for a U.S. House seat.)
Gov. Bill Quinn Lt. Gov. Jimmy Kealoha
Next, we had Jack Burns as governor and he was saddled with a man he just could not stand, Tom Gill. I interviewed Burns plane side when he returned from a trip the night of our election of a lieutenant governor. I told him it was Gill. Burns replied “Oh, Jesus, not him!” Burns had wanted Kenneth Brown. The next four years were hell. Then Gill ran against Burns and lost.
When Republican Linda Lingle won the top job, her picked-by-the-voters mate was Duke Aiona. There was no dislike there as in the Quinn and Burns cases, but Lingle was a very progressive Republican and Aiona was not. Aiona would later run for governor against a Democrat and lose.
My pitch for a “picked” lieutenant governor doesn’t draw huzzahs from all quarters. Pennsylvania played with the idea and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quickly shot it down, editorializing that:
“If a gubernatorial candidate wants to have some say about a running mate, he or she should line up behind a candidate for lieutenant governor in the primary, giving voters an early look at the chemistry between them. Diminishing the voters’ voice in the electoral process is a misguided idea.”
I say that our system is a “forced political marriage” which sometimes disrupts state government. We’ve just weathered that little dust up between Gov. Ige and Lt. Gov. Green over Covid-19 policies and this news release from the Health Department made me smile:
Update from Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, State Healthcare Liaison for COVID-19: Lt. Gov. Green continues to work with Governor David Ige, General Kenneth Hara and the healthcare community to evaluate Hawai‘i’s healthcare capacity and prepare for any possible surge in COVID-19 cases and individuals needing hospitalization.