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Abercrombie's entry puts races up in air


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POSTED: Saturday, March 07, 2009

Rep. Neil Abercrombie is flying into town this weekend to discuss plans to run for governor and then expects to make a formal announcement tomorrow.

His political staff is declining to discuss it, but Abercrombie is reportedly planning to make announcements of his gubernatorial plans across the state.

The news comes after five months of speculation that Abercrombie would run in the Democratic primary for governor in 2010.

Abercrombie almost jumped into the race in 2006 against Republican incumbent Gov. Linda Lingle, but said state campaign spending regulations would have put him at a competitive disadvantage.

Abercrombie is leaving a safe congressional seat that has sent him to Washington for 10 terms.

The 70-year-old former university professor and avid weightlifter is joining two other members of Congress, Reps. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., and Gresham Barrett, R-S.C., who also said this week that they would run for governor in their home states.

An Associated Press report from Washington said yesterday that Abercrombie had told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of his intentions and would beam an Internet video of his announcement back to supporters in Honolulu.

But after the announcement leaked, Abercrombie issued a statement saying he was flying to Honolulu.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who is considering running either for governor or for Abercrombie's congressional seat next year, said the Abercrombie announcement would not change his own political planning.

Hannemann, 54, also a Democrat, says he is popular and politically strong enough to jump into either race later in the political season.

“;There is labor support for me to go, there is business support, there is community support and I am hearing from people on the neighbor islands telling me to go.

“;I am hearing it from Republicans and Democrats, so I do not feel a compulsion to make an early decision,”; Hannemann said yesterday in an interview.

If Hannemann runs for governor, state law forces him to resign his mayorship, but if he runs for Congress he can remain as mayor if he loses.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, 57, has also been mentioned as a candidate for governor or Congress but refused to discuss it yesterday.

The third possible gubernatorial Democrat is former U.S.. Rep Ed Case, 56, who said yesterday he is still deciding between running for Congress or the governor's office.

“;Although a difficult choice, I'll make my final decision and enter a race in the next few weeks,”; Case said.

The Republican in the gubernatorial race, Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona, 53, has already announced and is raising money. He has collected more than $700,000, and Hannemann has nearly as much left over from his race for mayor.

Abercrombie, however, is unable to use any of the $1 million in his federal campaign, so he will have to start raising money now.

Aiona, who so far has no GOP opposition, says he “;welcomes the challenge”; of Abercrombie's candidacy.

“;I am proud to run on a proven record of leadership, integrity and commitment, and I look forward to what I hope will be a transparent and spirited debate about the best direction for our state,”; Aiona said in a news release.