Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Abercrombie was an 'outsider' but reached a range of groups

By Richard Borreca


Hawaii is a blue Democratic light shining in the middle of the Pacific, apparently ignoring a political mainland glowing Republican red.

Democrats knocked down much of the Hawaii Republican establishment last night, taking back the governorship and the 1st Congressional District and reducing the GOP legislative minority to the same all-time low it held in 1993, just ten out of 76.

While Democrats nationally lost the U.S. House, Hawaii added a second liberal Japanese-American lawyer to the congressional delegation, and Colleen Hanabusa will travel to Washington with Rep. Mazie Hirono.

Republican state Rep. Barbara Marumoto (Kalani Valley-Diamond Head) said Hawaii's Democratic disposition is a cultural thing.

"It will take a generational change. Everyone is a cultural Democrat, but the changes they want are with the GOP," Marumoto said.

GOP Gov. Linda Lingle said, "This will be going backwards."

Still, the big Democratic win was the governorship. Neil Abercrombie started in politics in 1970 as a maverick Democratic outsider, itching to run against the establishment. He came into this year's governor's race still running against the establishment, but with 40 years of political savvy.

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case said Abercrombie ran a campaign that did not deviate from his original political philosophy.

"Neil is an independent Democrat. He ran against the establishment candidate (former Mayor Mufi Hannemann), and he won. If he were an establishment candidate, he would have had a hard time," Case said.

"He ran as an outsider and he won -- then (in the general election) he went after the traditional Democrats and the independents," Case said.

Amy Agbayani, honorary co-chairwoman of the campaign, said part of the Abercrombie strategy was not to surrender any group.

"We didn't give up any group or any segment; we reached out to the faith community and all other groups," Agbayani said.

By last night it was clear that Abercrombie had reached out to the entire Democratic network, a coalition of ethnic organizations, labor groups and special-interest groups ranging from women's equality to gay and environment groups.

The Abercrombie win, according to Hawaii's senior senator and the most senior member of the U.S. Senate, Daniel Inouye, is just part of a Hawaii's Dem-ocratic party victory.

"Hawaii is the only state that voted a straight Democratic (congressional) ticket. Hawaii is the only state that voted out a Republican incumbent (GOP Lt. Gov. James 'Duke' Aiona)," Inouye said last night.

Case, however, argued that Hawaii is really not that unlike the mainland, but that voters in Hawaii forget that the rest of the country is also filled with GOP and Democratic strongholds.

"There are mainland districts that look like us, there are mainland districts just like us, after 190 Democratic incumbents won tonight," Case said.

But, he added, "Hawaii plays out a little differently."

Congresswoman-elect Hanabusa said Hawaii is a lot different.

"We are different. You cannot cookie-cut what works on the mainland and make it work in Hawaii," Hanabusa said.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at


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