In Surprising Defeat, Hawaii Governor Loses Primary

8/10/14
 
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from The New York Times,
8/10/14:

State Senator David Ige, center, defeated Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, right,

After nearly four decades in elected office in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie was dealt a stunning defeat in his bid for re-election over the weekend, becoming the first incumbent governor in the state’s history to lose in his party’s primary.

Mr. Abercrombie, a Democrat, was defeated Saturday by David Ige, who began the campaign as a little-known state senator but capitalized on the governor’s sinking popularity to win the nomination.

The race will almost certainly mark the end of Mr. Abercrombie’s long political career. At age 76, he collected only about 31 percent of the vote, compared with 66 percent for Mr. Ige.

“Every waking breath that I’ve taken, every thought that I’ve had before I slept, was for Hawaii,” Mr. Abercrombie said of his nearly 40 years in public office. “Whatever faults I had, one of them has never been a failure to give all that I can every day.”

Mr. Ige hardly seemed able to believe how easily he ultimately earned the nomination, after overcoming enormous disadvantages in fund-raising and name recognition.

Another high-profile Democratic incumbent, Senator Brian Schatz, was locked in a tight race with Colleen Hanabusa, a congresswoman, which remained too close to call.

The specter of Daniel K. Inouye, the late senator and war hero from Hawaii, hung over both races. In the last days of his life in 2012, he asked Mr. Abercrombie to appoint Ms. Hanabusa to succeed him. But Mr. Abercrombie ignored his request, and instead appointed Mr. Schatz to the Senate.

As the incumbents, Mr. Schatz and Mr. Abercrombie enjoyed strong support from the Democratic establishment, including President Obama, as well as huge fund-raising advantages.

Mr. Abercrombie has presided over a growing economy, a low and falling unemployment rate, and budget surpluses — a recipe that would usually allow a governor to coast to re-election.

But Josh Green, a Democratic state senator who did not endorse a candidate in either the gubernatorial or Senate race, said the controversy over Mr. Schatz’s appointment was indicative of a larger problem Mr. Abercrombie had connecting with voters as governor.

“Abercrombie failed to connect emotionally with the electorate,” Mr. Green said. “Normally, the incumbent has a gigantic advantage, because he has every possible opportunity to develop an emotional relationship with voters. But Abercrombie was distant emotionally from his constituents.”

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