Ben Cayetano

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Ben Cayetano
Ben Cayetano in 2019.jpg
Cayetano in 2019
5th Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 2, 1994 – December 2, 2002
LieutenantMazie Hirono
Preceded byJohn Waiheʻe
Succeeded byLinda Lingle
8th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 2, 1986 – December 2, 1994
GovernorJohn Waiheʻe
Preceded byJohn Waiheʻe
Succeeded byMazie Hirono
Personal details
Benjamin Jerome Cayetano

(1939-11-14) November 14, 1939 (age 83)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Lorraine Gueco
(m. 1959; div. 1996)

(m. 1997)
EducationLos Angeles Harbor College
University of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Loyola Marymount University (JD)

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.

Early years[edit]

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Cayetano was estranged from his mother at a young age. Cayetano was raised by his father in Kalihi, an ethnic Filipino neighborhood west of downtown Honolulu. He would grow up as a latchkey child. In Kalihi, he attended Wallace Rider Farrington High School, a public school aptly known locally as "Home of the Governors" as its buildings were named after several early Hawaiʻi statesmen. The school was only a few blocks from his home. Cayetano received poor grades throughout his years at Farrington and was often disciplined by his teachers and counselors. He barely made marks qualifying him to graduate.

Upon graduation Cayetano married Lorraine Gueco, his high school sweetheart. After the birth of his son Brandon in 1959, he worked a variety of entry-level jobs, such as a metal-packer in a junkyard, truck driver, apprentice electrician, and finally as a draftsman. Frustrated by what he felt were racially motivated and politically unfair hiring practices, he and his family moved to Los Angeles, California in 1963 in pursuit of an education in law.

Cayetano attended Los Angeles Harbor College and transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles in 1966. In 1968, he graduated from UCLA with a major in political science and minor in American history. In 1971, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School at the Loyola Marymount University.[1]

In 1972, Cayetano was appointed to the Hawaii Housing Authority by Governor John A. Burns.[2] In 1974, he was elected to the state house as a Democrat representing Pearl City.

Lieutenant governor[edit]

Cayetano joined the John D. Waihe'e III gubernatorial ticket in 1986 and became the first Filipino American lieutenant governor in the United States. The Waihee–Cayetano ticket was re-elected to a second term in 1990. In his capacity as Hawaii's lieutenant governor, Cayetano established the A+ Program, a state-funded, universal, after-school care program with chartered organizations at each public elementary school in Hawaii.

Cayetano administration[edit]

Cayetano with Hillary Clinton in 1995

Term limits forced Waihee into retirement and the Democratic Party nominated Cayetano to run for Governor of Hawaiʻi in 1994. With attorney Mazie Hirono as his running mate, Cayetano was voted into office.

In 1998, Mayor of Maui Linda Lingle was nominated by the Republican Party to run against Cayetano on an agenda of government reform. For months leading into election day, Cayetano trailed Lingle in the major media polls. In the closest election in Hawaii's history, Cayetano won a second term by a single percentage point validated by an official recount of ballots.

Throughout his tenure in office, Cayetano had to contend with economic uncertainty and serious fiscal problems. Declining tax revenues led to budget shortfalls, and the governor often found himself at odds with his fellow Democrats in the state legislature as he attempted to implement budget cuts to balance the state budget.

On education, the Cayetano administration built thirteen new schools, and he was able to persuade the teachers' union to extend the school year by seven days. Also under his administration, the University of Hawaiʻi system gained autonomy over internal affairs. On the other hand, labor disputes with UH professors and public school teachers in April 2001 led to simultaneous strikes by both unions that crippled the state's entire educational system for three weeks.

Cayetano left office in December 2002. He was succeeded by former Republican challenger Lingle.

Mayoral race and rail issues[edit]

On January 19, 2012, Cayetano came out of retirement to run for the office of Honolulu Mayor.[3] Cayetano's stated focus in his mayoral campaign was greater transparency in local government, but its core was ending the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, a plan to build a 20-mile elevated steel on steel rail system in the city. In the primary election on August 11, 2012, he received more votes than either of his pro-rail primary opponents, Kirk Caldwell and Peter Carlisle. He did not achieve the majority required to win the election outright, and faced Caldwell in the general election on November 6.[4] Cayetano subsequently lost the mayoral election to Kirk Caldwell, in a vote that was widely viewed as a referendum on the rail project. He continued his opposition to the rail, in 2017 urging the Federal Transit Authority to terminate further funding for it. In an ad paid for by the Abigail Kapiolani Kawānanakoa Foundation, Cayetano asked President Donald Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to withhold $800 million for the project.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Cayetano and his wife, former First Lady Vicky Cayetano, ride in the King Kamehameha Parade, 2016.

Cayetano and his first wife, Lorraine Cayetano (née Gueco), divorced in 1996, ending their 37-year marriage.[6] He became the first sitting governor of Hawaii to divorce while in office.[6]

Cayetano is married to his second wife, Vicky Cayetano (née Tiu), whom he married on May 5, 1997. Vicky was president of United Laundry Services at the time of their wedding.[6] She played a major supporting role opposite Elvis Presley in the musical film, It Happened at the World's Fair.

Ben Cayetano has five children. He has three children from his first marriage to Lorraine Cayetano: Brandon, Janeen, and Samantha. Vicky Cayetano also has two children, Marissa and William, from a previous marriage.

He appeared as himself in an episode of Baywatch Hawaii in 1999.

Electoral history[edit]

Hawaii gubernatorial election, 1994
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ben Cayetano 134,978 36.58
Independent Frank Fasi 113,158 30.67
Republican Pat Saiki 107,908 29.24
Green Kioni Dudley 12,969 3.51
Hawaii gubernatorial election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ben Cayetano (inc.) 204,206 50.11
Republican Linda Lingle 198,952 48.82
Libertarian George Peabody 4,398 1.08
Honolulu mayoral primary election, 2012[7]
Party Candidate Votes %
Nonpartisan Ben Cayetano 90,956 44.1
Nonpartisan Kirk Caldwell 59,963 29.1
Nonpartisan Peter Carlisle (inc.) 51,101 24.8
Blank Votes 2,678 1.3
Nonpartisan Khistina Caldwell Dejean 1,289 0.6
Over Votes 47 0.0
Total votes 206,034 100
Honolulu mayoral election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Nonpartisan Ben Cayetano 133,154 46.1%
Nonpartisan Kirk Caldwell 155,664 53.9%

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Benjamin Cayetano, Governor of Hawaii". UCLA Spotlight. Archived from the original on February 27, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  2. ^ "Benjamin Cayetano - Hawaii History - Governors". Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  3. ^ "Cayetano will run for mayor as anti-rail candidate". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. January 19, 2012.
  4. ^ "Primary Election 2012 - State of Hawaii - Final Summary Report" (PDF). State of Hawaii, Office of Elections. August 12, 2012. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  5. ^ Cayetano To Trump: Cut Honolulu Rail Funds, Honolulu Civil Beat, Stewart Yerton, April 21, 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Borreca, Richard (October 23, 1998). "Rallying The Faithful: Defending the Democratic Party and mustering the troops, Cayetano pushes for another term". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2015.
  7. ^ "PRIMARY ELECTION 2012 - State of Hawaii - Statewide" (PDF). State Of Hawaii Office of Elections. Retrieved September 29, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cayetano, Benjamin J. (2009). Ben: A Memoir, from Street Kid to Governor. Watermark Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9790647-0-8.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Hawaii
1994, 1998
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former Governor Order of precedence of the United States Succeeded byas Former Governor