Abercrombie beats Hannemann in race for Hawaii Democratic gubernatorial nomination

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Abercrombie wins Hawaii Democratic gov race

HONOLULU — Hawaii Democrats have chosen former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie in their bid to take back the governor’s office after eight years of Republican control.

Abercrombie defeated longtime political rival ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in a bitterly contested campaign that focused on character and leadership experience.

Abercrombie will face Republican nominee Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona in the November campaign to succeed GOP Gov. Linda Lingle in President Barack Obama’s birth state.

Lingle could not run again because of term limits.

Abercrombie likely will have to appeal to the state’s moderate Democrats, who backed Hannemann, while Aiona will have to demonstrate he can win in what is still a strongly Democratic state.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

HONOLULU (AP) — Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona easily won the Republican nominee for Hawaii governor on Saturday night, and he will now face either former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie or ex-Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who are facing off for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

According to unofficial returns on the first printout, Abercrombie was leading Hannemann, 59 to 40 percent.

The 55-year-old Aiona defeated his lone challenger, the underfunded Honolulu lawyer John Carroll, by a large margin.

Aiona will attempt to retain the governor’s office in November’s elections for the Republican Party, which has held the seat for eight years through Gov. Linda Lingle.

Lingle is due to step down in December after serving the maximum allowed two terms. This gives the Democrats an opening to reinstall one of their own in an office they had controlled for 40 straight years until Lingle’s election in 2002.

While the Republican race was lopsided, the Democratic contest was still undecided. The Democrats waged a barb-filled contest that included controversies over some of Hannemann’s comments and political advertising.

Hannemann, 56, drew criticism for urging members of a carpenters’ union to support him because “I look like you,” a reference to Hannemann’s Samoan-German ancestry. Abercrombie, who is white, said the former mayor shouldn’t try to divide people by race.

A subsequent Hannemann campaign brochure highlighted his Hawaii birth while noting Abercrombie, 72, was born in New York. It also noted Hannemann’s wife had a Japanese maiden name in comparison to Abercrombie’s wife, who is white.

Despite the sharp accusations, Hannemann and Abercrombie share similar plans to improve public education, promote renewable energy and build Honolulu’s rail system.

Art Castaldi, a retiree in the Honolulu suburb of Kailua, voted for Hannemann.

“I like what he’s done as the mayor, and I think he’ll be successful as governor,” Castaldi said after voting at Kainalu Elementary School.

He said the economy and the mass transit rail line proposed for Honolulu — a project Hannemann heavily promoted while mayor — were the most important election issues.

“They’re both associated. If he gets the rail moving, our economy will pick up here too,” Castaldi said.

Roberta Sylvester, a bookkeeper, is Republican but she voted in the Democratic primary for Hannemann. She did so to lower the chances Abercrombie — the more liberal of the two — would win November’s general election.

“We don’t want Abercrombie,” said Sylvester, of Kailua, after voting with her husband. “I thought by maybe voting for Mufi, we’d get more votes for him and not Abercrombie.”

But Steve Curty said he supported Abercrombie because the former congressman steered federal money into military equipment and housing. “I’ve been here for 26 years and I voted for him in every single election,” said Curty, 57, who is self-employed.

Hawaii — the birth state of Barack Obama — is among the bluest in the nation. Democrats have an overwhelming majority in the state Legislature, and control three out of the state’s four seats in Congress.

AP writers Audrey McAvoy and Mark Niesse contributed to this report.

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