Will he, or won't he? Dems await Abercrombie's answer
As Hawaii Congressman Neil Abercrombie ponders a run for governor, here are five reasons for the 1st District lawmaker to check his math: John Burns, Tom Gill, Pat Saiki, Patsy Mink and Cec Heftel.
All five were members of Congress representing Hawaii, who left to run for another office and failed.
In 1956 John Burns, the founder of the modern Democratic Party in Hawaii, was elected as a delegate from the Territory of Hawaii. Burns watched Hawaii join the union and returned to run for office in 1959.
Burns lost to then-Territorial Gov. William F. Quinn, but then later won the governorship for three terms.
Tom Gill was in Congress serving as an at-large delegate when he decided not to run for re-election in 1964. Gill instead unsuccessfully challenged Hiram Fong for a Senate seat. Later he was elected lieutenant governor, then challenged Burns for governor and lost.
Pat Saiki was a popular Republican who served in Congress from 1987 to 1991. In 1990 Saiki ran unsuccessfully against fellow Rep. Dan Akaka for a U.S. Senate seat. Then, in 1994, she ran and lost a race for governor against Ben Cayetano.
The late Rep. Patsy Mink served in the U.S. House from 1965 to 1977, when she ran for the Senate and lost. Then after serving on the City Council, the iconic Mink rebounded and returned to Congress in 1990, where she served until her death in 2003.
Since 1959, Hawaii has had 12 members of Congress. Of those, only Sens. Dan Inouye and Spark Matsunaga ran for and immediately won another seat. Burns, Gill, Mink, Saiki and Heftel left the House and stumbled.
For Abercrombie, this year brings a completely new ledger. He can't simply look at past campaigns and assume a November 2006 victory doesn't add up.
Abercrombie has Democrats in Honolulu hanging on his decision of whether to run for governor. Local Democrats are looking for someone to revive a moribund party. Both party workers and elected officials are saying that Abercrombie's flamboyant speaking style and grassroots support for the Democratic Party would unite a party now snake-bitten in the face of Governor Lingle's well-financed and planned campaign.
Lingle would enjoy a big campaign advantage against any opponent because the economy is doing well, she is the incumbent and she expects to raise and spend $6 million to keep control of the governor's office. Democrats are left to decide how much they are willing to risk to chance a victory 12 months from now.
Democrats today are left waiting for word from Abercrombie or turning their quest for a standard-bearer to the help-wanted columns.
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Richard Borreca writes on politics every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached at 525-8630 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org