Benjamin J. Cayetano

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Ben J. Cayetano, a member of the Democratic Party, 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.

Born in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 14, 1939, Cayetano was raised by his father in Kalihi on the island of Oahu. He is a graduate of Farrington High School.

In 1968, Cayetano graduated from UCLA with a major in political science and minor in American history. In 1971, he earned his law degree from Loyola Law School.

In 1972, Governor John A. Burns appointed him to the Hawaii Housing Authority. Gov. Burns, noting Cayetano's abilities in the HHA, encouraged Cayetano of a run for the Hawaii State House of Representatives. In 1974, he won the Pearl City house seat as a Democrat. In 1978, Cayetano was elected to the Hawaii State Senate.

in 1986, Cayetano and John D. Waihee III ran for lt governor and governor respectively on the Democratic ticket. With their election win, Cayetano became the first Filipino American Lieutenant Governor in the United States and Waihee became the first Hawaiian American Governor in the US. Both were re-elected to a second term in 1990.

In 1994, with Gov. Waihee unable to run for reelection because of term limits, Cayetano ran on the Democratic ticket for Governor of Hawaii. With attorney Mazie Hirono as his running mate, Cayetano was swept into office having defeated Congresswoman Patricia Saiki and former Mayor of Honolulu Frank F. Fasi.

In 1998, Mayor of Maui Linda Lingle was nominated by the Republican Party to run against Cayetano on an agenda of government reform. In the closest election in Hawaii history, Cayetano and Hirono won a second term by a single percentage point validated by an official recount.

In 2002, barred by term-limits to a third term, Cayetano left office. He was succeeded by Maui Mayor Linda Lingle who beat Mazie Hirono in another tight race.

During Gov. Cayetano's administration, Hawaii's weak economy provided declines in state revenue. Cayetano, to his credit, made tough decisions often at odds with the legislature to rein in spending to balance the state budget and pushed for income tax breaks to stimulate the economy.

In 1998 he received an honorary doctorate of public service from Loyola Marymount University. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws from the University of the Philippines.

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