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Mr. Aiona has served eight years as lieutenant governor, a post that holds little power and few responsibilities. He has been a loyal deputy to Ms. Lingle, who in 2002 became the first Republican to be elected governor in four decades.

But in the past two years, the state’s tourism-driven economy and government services have suffered, leading to voter discontent against current officeholders such as Mr. Aiona.

Mr. Aiona or his allies are virtually certain to try to paint Mr. Abercrombie as a liberal and a big spender and assert that Hawaii needs a GOP governor to balance a state Legislature that remains firmly in Democratic hands.

The lieutenant governor also may focus attention on same-sex civil unions, the subject of controversial state legislation earlier this year that he strongly opposes and Mr. Abercrombie just as strongly supports. The civil unions measure passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Ms. Lingle.

Mr. Abercrombie is likely to move quickly to wrest away some of Mr. Hannemann’s supporters, which include labor unions and business groups. But he may face resistance from Hannemann supporters who, like their candidate, opposed the civil unions measure.

AP writers Herbert A. Sample, Audrey McAvoy and Greg Small contributed to this report.