RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, watched by Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria, announced yesterday he would not run for governor next year.
Abercrombie decides not to challenge Lingle
The congressman says he would like Harry Kim to run
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie will not run for governor, dashing the hopes of many Democrats who saw in him the best chance to defeat Gov. Linda Lingle.
Instead, Abercrombie announced yesterday that he would run for re-election, a relief for many supporters worried that his 15 years of seniority in Congress would be lost if he ran for governor.
During an afternoon news conference at his Ward Warehouse campaign headquarters, Abercrombie said his heart told him to run against Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, but friends and supporters, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, persuaded him to seek a ninth term representing the 1st Congressional District (Urban Honolulu).
"This isn't a 'Rocky' movie," Abercrombie said. "It is one thing for me to say, 'I am ready to go and stand back and watch the fireworks' -- but in the end I decided this isn't about whether I have my competitive juices going. It is what is the best thing for the people, and you owe them the right thing."
Randy Perreira, deputy executive director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, earlier said the union was considering supporting Abercrombie but saw the logic of him remaining in the House.
"Neil made a decision and so be it. He did so for a lot of the right reasons. There is a partnership with Sen. Inouye that would be impossible to duplicate," Perreira said.
Lingle said she is ready for any candidates the Democrats will eventually support.
"Lt. Gov. (James) Aiona and I are looking forward to the campaign next year," Lingle said. "I've always prepared the same way for all my campaigns -- and that is, just picture the most difficult opponent you can and prepare for that, and then no matter who runs, you should be prepared."
Abercrombie's decision leaves the Democrats without any well-known gubernatorial candidates.
"They are back to square zero," said Neal Milner, a University of Hawaii political scientist.
"To sum it up: They are screwed. It is one thing to think you are going in as the underdog, but it is another thing to think that the race is so wrapped up that it isn't even worth a fight," Milner said.
Brickwood Galuteria, Democratic Party chairman, says although Democrats lack a candidate, the party is ready.
"We have sought to reconnect some of our disconnects that we saw with our own legislators and the party and critical constituencies like labor," he said.
"We would really appreciate someone emerging so we can make our plans. But, once a candidate does emerge, we will be fully equipped to come to the table," Galuteria promised.
Abercrombie said Mayor Mufi Hannemann had also asked him to stay in Congress, saying that his help with finding funding for a mass transit system "has been invaluable."
Abercrombie said he would like to see Big Island Mayor Harry Kim run for governor.
"I think (it's no secret) that my original candidate, Harry Kim, is still my candidate, and I am hoping that the mayor of the Big Island will come to a conclusion soon," Abercrombie said.
Another possible candidate is former Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue, who has never held elective office. Abercrombie called him "impressive and an old friend."
In handicapping the race yesterday, Abercrombie discounted the more than $2 million that Lingle has already raised for next year's campaign. He said the money would work against her because it was raised under the present campaign spending law, and a new law would change how she or any other state candidate can raise money.
"We get rid of all that special-interest money. ... It is my view that she turn all that money back. It was under the old law, and we are starting fresh. She shouldn't spend a nickel of that money," Abercrombie said.