Hawaii Incumbent Governor Loses Primary for First Time in History

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 10 2014 3:52 PM

Hawaii Incumbent Governor Loses Primary for First Time in History

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Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie holds up the pen after signing Senate Bill 1, allowing same sex marriage to be legal in the state on November 13, 2013

REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie can now add a dubious distinction to his resume, having become the first sitting governor since Hawaiian statehood in 1959 to lose a primary race. State Sen. David Ige easily trounced Abercrombie on Saturday with 67 percent of the vote, a surprisingly large margin, reports Bloomberg. The victory is all the more remarkable when you consider that Ige was barely known across the state when he launched his campaign and ended up spending a mere $500,000 compared to Abercrombie’s $5 million, notes the Hawaii Reporter. Plus, President Obama had endorsed Abercrombie.

Many had predicted Abercrombie was going to make history by losing Saturday’s primary. The 76-year-old political veteran angered organized labor groups during his time in office and was also criticized for appointing Brian Schatz to take over the Senate seat left vacant after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, who had made it clear he wanted Colleen Hanabusa to be his successor, reports the Washington Post. But Abercrombie’s “defeat is startling given the state's economic rebound during his four-year term and recent policy victories on the minimum wage, land conservation at Turtle Bay Resort and marriage equality,”  notes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

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Ige is now the clear favorite to win in November considering the state's Democratic tradition, but he will have to face up against Republican Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is running as a member of the Hawaii Independent Party.

"Together, we have made history," Ige said after the results were unveiled. "People told me I was crazy for giving up my seat in the state Senate, but I knew we needed change.”

Meanwhile, the state’s Senate Democratic primary between Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa remained too close to call. So far though, it seems “the math is not on Hanabusa’s side,” as the Los Angeles Times puts it.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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