Hawaii Democratic governor loses primary
Governor Neil Abercrombie, a former congressman whose political career spans more than 40 years, became the first sitting governor in state history to lose a primary.
Abercrombie was bested by a little known state senator, David Ige, who was outspent by the incumbent by a 10-1 margin.
Another incumbent, Senator Brian Schatz, was locked in a tight race with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz had an 1800 vote lead with some mail ballots yet to be counted. There was also a problem in a couple of precincts on the Big Island due to the tropical storm that hit yesterday.
Mr. Ige hardly seemed able to believe how easily he ultimately earned the nomination, after overcoming enormous disadvantages in fund-raising and name recognition. Through July 25, Mr. Abercrombie had spent nearly $5 million trying to secure re-election; Mr. Ige spent less than $500,000, according to the Hawaii campaign spending commission.
But the money did not matter. As the election became a referendum on an unpopular governor, voters who knew little about Mr. Ige were willing to support him.
“When we started this 13 months ago, I had people tell me I was crazy,” he said. “No one thought we would be anywhere close to where we are today.”
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.
Mr. Schatz held a lead of about 1,800 votes, with some mail-in ballots still left to count. Voters in two precincts on the Big Island of Hawaii had also not yet cast ballots because polling sites were closed after damage from the tropical storm that hit Friday. A recount was possible. (In heavily Democratic Hawaii, the party is almost sure to retain the seat, regardless of who wins the primary.)
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.
Ms. Hanabusa, meanwhile, repeatedly underscored her connections to Mr. Inouye, whose son attended her campaign rally on Saturday. She played up her own roots in rural Hawaii, while trying to paint Mr. Schatz as a usurper who should never have been appointed to the Senate, and was now enjoying support from Washington, rather than from Hawaii. (Mr. Schatz also grew up in Hawaii.)
“This is the United States Senate race, the one to determine who would succeed Senator Inouye,” Ms. Hanabusa said. “This is the first time the people have had a say.”
Inouye, who died in 2012, was an Hawaiin institution, having served in congress since Hawaii became a state in 1959. To deny the wish of a dying war hero (Inouye lost an arm in WW 2) and beloved politician cost Abercrombie dearly. Schatz was tainted but has won high marks in the last two years from several traditional Democratic constituencies.
Hawaii is one of the few states where President Obama remains well liked, so his endorsement didn't hurt either Abercrombie or Schatz. But the results suggest an anti-incumbent mood may play a role in the mid term elections in Noivember.