Ben Cayetano

Ben Cayetano

Infobox Governor
name= Benjamin J. Cayetano

height= 200px
office= Governor of Hawaii
term_start= December 2, 1994
term_end= December 2, 2002
lieutenant= Mazie Hirono - D
predecessor= John Waihee - D
successor= Linda Lingle - R
birth_date= birth date and age|1939|11|14
birth_place= Honolulu, Hawaiokinai
spouse= Vicky Tiu Liu
profession= Lawyer
party= Democrat

Benjamin Jerome "Ben" Cayetano (born November 14, 1939) served as the fifth Governor of the State of Hawaiokinai from 1994 to 2002. He is the first Filipino American to serve as a state governor in the United States.

Early years

Born in Honolulu, Hawaiokinai, 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 Hawaiokinai 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 menial 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 eventually 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.

Lieutenant Governor

Cayetano joined the John D. Waihee 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 Lieutenant Governor, Cayetano established the A+ Program, an ambitious state-funded, universal, after-school care program with chartered organizations at each public elementary school in Hawaiokinai. In creating the program, Cayetano was mindful of his own latchkey child background growing up in Kalihi. The A+ Program became a model for other school boards across the country to create similar projects.

Cayetano administration

Term limits forced Waihee into retirement and the Democratic Party nominated Cayetano to run for Governor of Hawaiokinai in 1994. With attorney Mazie K. 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, Cayetano would face one of the toughest challenges to the Democratic Party's stronghold over the Office of the Governor. Popular 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.

Cayetano left office in December 2002 barred by law from seeking a third term. He was succeeded by former Republican challenger Lingle who beat Hirono in another tight race.

Throughout his tenure in office, Cayetano had to contend with economic uncertainty and serious fiscal problems. Declining tax revenues led to budget shortfalls that had to be addressed, and the fiscally conservative 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. Cayetano gets most of the credit, however, for passing large cuts in the state income tax to stimulate the state's economy.

On education, the Cayetano administration built thirteen new schools, and he was able to persuade the teacher's union to extend the school year by seven days. Also under his administration, the University of Hawaiokinai 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 is currently married to the former Vicky Tiu Liu [] , whom he married on May 5, 1997, over thirty years after she had played a major supporting role opposite Elvis Presley in the musical film "It Happened at the World's Fair".

He has three children from his first marriage: Brandon, Janeen, and Samantha.

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


* [ Feature story on Ben Cayetano on the UCLA website]

External links

*Benjamin J. Cayetano's published biography is forthcoming from [ "Watermark Publishing"] (due out in early 2007)
* [ "Ben: A Memoir, From Street Kid to Governor"] by Benjamin J. Cayetano. ISBN 978-0-9790647-0-8.

succession box one to two
title1=Lieutenant Governor of Hawai‘i
before=John D. Waihee III - D
after1=Mazie Hirono - D
years1=1986 - 1994
title2=Governor of Hawai‘i
after2=Linda Lingle - R
years2=1994 - 2002


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