CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, center, was among those yesterday urging Hawaii-raised U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to run for president. Others included state Rep. Della Belatti, former state Rep. Brian Schatz and state Rep. Tom Brower. CLICK FOR LARGE
Obama clamor grows
Abercrombie lends his support to the Illinois senator
At least one member of Hawaii's congressional delegation is throwing his support behind the potential presidential candidacy of U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie yesterday added his voice to the chorus of local Democrats urging Obama to seek the presidency in the next election.
Obama, who was born in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou, has acknowledged he's thinking of running, but has not declared his candidacy. The first-term Democrat from Illinois has been vacationing in Hawaii this month, but has not made any public comments.
He is expected to announce a decision upon returning to Washington next week.
Abercrombie stopped short of using the word "endorsement" in supporting an Obama candidacy, but said he would back him over other candidates, including U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.
Clinton has not declared her intentions, while Edwards announced his candidacy this week.
"We're hoping that Senator Clinton will come to the conclusion that the best role for her is to support an Obama candidacy," Abercrombie said.
He called Edwards a "wonderful candidate," but said he feels Obama's diverse background is what is needed in the upcoming campaign.
"This is a campaign which we believe transcends personality," Abercrombie said. "It transcends the cynicism and the poisonous atmosphere that has developed over the last six years of the Bush administration.
"We believe that Senator Obama is going to transcend that with his campaign."
Obama's mother was from Kansas and his father from Kenya. He also spent part of his childhood in Indonesia before returning to Hawaii. He studied at Occidental College in California and later at Columbia and Harvard Law School.
Abercrombie said he had talked to Obama recently, but he had no inside knowledge about when the senator might make an announcement.
"He's very, very happy to know that his friends and people who love him in Hawaii are supporting him," Abercrombie said.
Others at Abercrombie's announcement included former state Rep. Brian Schatz, who has led the local organizing efforts for the national group DraftObama.org.
Incumbent state Democrats who have announced support for Obama's candidacy include Sens. Russell Kokubun and Clarence Nishihara; and Reps. Della Belatti, Tom Brower, Sylvia Luke, Joey Manahan and Scott Saiki.
They have been joined by at least one prominent Republican, former state Sen. Bob Hogue, who lost his bid for Congress this year to Mazie Hirono.
"I think that we have to go beyond party at this point -- we just have to talk about leadership," Hogue said. "I realize that platforms will unfold and there is a possibility that as the platforms unfold I may end up ultimately voting for a Republican.
"I'm very intrigued about Barack Obama. I think the country needs a leader who can bridge the gap between the different ideologies."
Other members of Hawaii's congressional delegation have not spoken publicly about the 2008 race, although Sens. Dan Inouye and Dan Akaka are friendly with Obama and often have referred to him as Hawaii's "third senator." Neither was available for comment yesterday.
In a statement, Hirono said she is focused on the upcoming session of Congress. "But I am happy that there are so many capable and highly qualified Democrats, including Senator Obama, who are prepared to commit themselves to leading our nation," she said.