Neil Abercrombie, 60, takes aBy Helen Altonn
break after winning a tough fight
to return to Congress
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie says he's "disappearing" with his wife, Nancie Caraway, until tomorrow afternoon when he'll wave a mahalo sign to voters for a resounding re-election victory.
They are resting somewhere within the state after a grueling campaign against Republican state Rep. Gene Ward.
Abercrombie, 60, will return to Congress from the 1st Congressional District with his Democratic colleagues, U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, 70, and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, 73. Though both campaigned, they had token re-election opposition.
Wearing a "good luck" blue-and-white palaka shirt given to him by Goro Arakawa for the campaign, Abercrombie last night attributed his win over Ward to their debates.
He said he "had the facts on my side" and "people were listening....They rejected personal attacks on me."
He said the national GOP, helping Ward wage his campaign, "tried to make me a monster, an alien being....People just did not buy it. It just isn't going to work here."
He said he drew support from thousands of people he taught as a University of Hawaii professor or helped with immigration, sewage or other problems.
Republican Art Heath, for example, said he's had the "utmost respect" for Abercrombie since meeting with him three years ago in Washington, D.C., about a problem affecting survival of small businesses transporting military household goods.
"He is a man of his word and one of the staunchest supporters of small business in Congress," said Heath, an employee-owner of American Movers.
Abercrombie said people across the country have been calling him, interested in the race because his vote represents national as well as island interests.
Ward, 55, took his loss to Abercrombie with good humor during a campaign gathering at the Pagoda Hotel, joking with the crowd and cheering disappointed supporters.
He asked everyone to take out a $1 bill, pointing out it says "In God We Trust" on one side.
"We are very proud that we represented change and principles," he said. "We came into the race with purpose, a fire in our belly, and meaning."
Ward, who stressed the ailing economy and his business background during the campaign, feels he lost because he didn't have enough money.
"There is a correlation between truth and the amount of money going into a campaign," he said.
"This is not sour grapes," Ward added. "I wish Neil well. I think he learned something: how the economy should be focused."
Ward's wife, Faredah, said they planned to clean out his office today at the state Capitol.
A state representative the past eight years, Ward said he hasn't given any thought to what he'll do next. "If I don't go to Congress, God's got a different plan."
In what Ward called "a sweet moment," House Republican leader Quentin Kawananakoa stopped by the Pagoda and embraced him.
Kawananakoa dropped out of the primary congressional race against Ward because of illness.
Addressing the crowd, Kawananakoa said: "Gene held on where I couldn't. He gave an incredible fight against Neil."
Inouye decries prolific negative campaigningU.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye easily won re-election last night, but that's not what he'll remember about the 1998 campaign. Looking at all this year's races, Inouye told his supporters this was one of the nastiest elections he's seen in the four decades he's been in politics.
"This is the first time I've been called an orangutan," Inouye said, alluding to a remark Republican congressional nominee Gene Ward made during a televised debate with Democratic U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie: "I think the orangutan would object to that."
Inouye also pointed to a cartoon by John Pritchett that was linked to Republican gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle's Web site which portrayed local youths as "foul-mouth, obscene, stupid country hicks."
Inouye added that it was unfortunate that there was so much negative campaigning by both Democrats and Republicans this year.
"It doesn't say much about our aloha," he said. "Let's make aloha mean something more than a commercial."
Ward aide says needed more money to competeJonathan Borgia, Hawaii Pacific University freshman, and Joel Burbage, a home-school graduate, both 17, said they learned a lot about politics and government working for state Rep. Gene Ward.
They were interns in his legislative office and volunteers for his congressional race.
"I've known Gene Ward all my life, and I'm a Republican. I think he's really doing a good job," said Borgia.
Borgia said Ward was at a disadvantage because "not a lot of money was coming in" for his congressional campaign.
"It's necessary to spend money to tell people what you're all about, what you stand for," he said.
High-school seniors eager to vote in 1999Only in Hawaii would a candidate have poke on his desk, noted Kris Cuaresma-Primm, visiting U.S. Neil Abercrombie last night.
"That's aloha," he said.
Cuaresma-Primm and Lance Takaki, Mid-Pacific Institute seniors, said they're involved in student government and eager to vote in state elections next year.
"We're eager to get our foot in the door," said Cuaresma-Primm.
Young Democrats start club at Iolani SchoolPolitics are rearing up on Iolani School's campus.
Stanley Chang, a junior, and Eric Hananaki, a freshman, are forming a Young Democrats Club.
The two, among supporters at U.S. Neil Abercrombie's campaign headquarters last night, are class secretaries.
"We were looking at candidates across the board and came to the conclusion that the vast majority of Democrats in this election were stronger," Chang said.
"Democrats seem to care more," said Hananaki. "Republicans seem out of touch."
He said the political process is interesting: "You can influence how government works through getting involved."