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Abercrombie to resign from Congress


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POSTED: Saturday, December 12, 2009

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie dropped an early Christmas bombshell on Hawaii: He is leaving Congress to fire up his campaign for governor full time.

In a message to supporters on the Internet yesterday, Abercrombie said he was returning to Hawaii to campaign and will resign from Congress. Details will come during a news conference set for 11 a.m. tomorrow, he said.

The longtime Hawaii political leader said the announcement makes him “;all in for Hawaii.”;

“;We will present ambitious, achievable plans for job creation, economic recovery, educational reform, food and energy independence, public health and safety, and government efficiency,”; Abercrombie said.

;[Preview]  Abercrombie's resignation may spark special election
 

Neil Abercrombie resigns after nearly 20 years on the U.S. House of Representatives.

Watch ]

 

Abercrombie had to divide his time between Washington and Honolulu with weekend trips home to campaign taking up to 12 hours in the air each way.

Leaving his office of nearly 20 years gives him more time to campaign but immediately opens the door for criticism.

U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye was first to rebuke Abercrombie, saying Hawaii was losing valuable political clout.

“;It leaves us a vote shy in the House at a time when major policy changes like health care reform, a war spending measure, the Akaka Bill and others are shaping up for debate and passage,”; Inouye said in an e-mail.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, Abercrombie's expected opponent in the 2010 Democratic primary, agreed.

“;He is leaving the state in a lurch. He has become a very influential member of Congress. I think he put a lot of people in a difficult situation, including the city,”; Hannemann said yesterday during an interview.

Abercrombie supporters, however, see the move as helping the campaign.

“;It will give him the opportunity to express some leadership close up,”; said John Radcliffe, a lobbyist, political adviser and close friend of Abercrombie.

; “;It will also give him the chance to be on the same ground as the mayor. It makes it a level playing field,”; Radcliffe said, adding that it could force voters to wonder whether Hannemann was serious about a run for governor.

Hannemann said yesterday that Abercrombie will not influence his own plans.

“;I am doing the people's business, not my own political business. I made it clear in 2008 that if I won, I wanted to be free to explore other options,”; Hannemann said.

Both men are actively fundraising. Hannemann describes his campaign as “;exploratory,”; although he had to formally file with the Campaign Spending Commission before he could raise money.

On Dec. 3, Hannemann held a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at the Regency Club in Los Angeles. Abercrombie plans a $500-a-ticket event Monday in Honolulu.

University of Hawaii political scientist Neal Milner says Abercrombie's move should help him both in fundraising and also by putting more pressure on Hannemann.

“;This way, he can do more of what he does well, which is face-to-face campaigning. He can raise money better, and he can push the Democratic stalwarts harder to vote for him,”; Milner said.

“;This move also forces Mufi's hand. It will be harder for him to say he is not a candidate for governor,”; Milner said.

The primary Republican candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. James “;Duke”; Aiona, said Abercrombie “;has been a part of Washington politics for a very long time and has grown out of touch with our residents.”;

The Aiona campaign put out a statement saying Abercrombie “;could use some time in Hawaii to reacquaint himself with the issues facing our families and distance himself from his failed policies in Washington.”;