BENJAMIN J. CAYETANO Biography - Polititians


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Name: Benjamin Jerome Cayetano                                                           
Born: 14 November 1939 Honolulu, Hawaii                                                   
Benjamin Jerome "Ben" Cayetano (born November 14, 1939) 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, 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 Hawaii 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.                                   
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 Hawaii. 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.             
Term limits forced Waihee into retirement and the Democratic Party nominated             
Cayetano to run for Governor of Hawaii 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 Hawaii 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.                     
Although his policy decisions may not have made him the most popular governor in         
Hawaii, most observers credit the governor with having the courage to make               
tough decisions in difficult times.