POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 4, 2010
Neil Abercrombie turned Hawaii back to blue on Tuesday, sweeping all but one state House district in his march to Washington Place.
The governor-elect beat Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican, 58 percent to 41 percent statewide and claimed all four counties.
Abercrombie took 50 of 51 state House districts, according to an analysis of the election returns by the Star-Advertiser, dropping only state House District 40 in Kapolei, where Aiona lives.
Abercrombie did particularly well in districts in Kau, Puna and Hilo on the Big Island and in Manoa, his home. He narrowly edged Aiona by just three votes each in districts in Ewa Beach and the North Shore.
"Our message was one of inclusion and it resonated everywhere, and that's why you saw strength across all of the islands," said Lt. Governor-elect Brian Schatz. "Everybody in Hawaii is ready to make a change."
Travis Taylor, a spokesman for the Aiona campaign, said the lieutenant governor "went after every vote in every community on every island."
"Unfortunately, we weren't able to combat the late flood of negative advertising from special interests and outside influences," he said in an e-mail. "We took an honest approach to be upfront about offering fiscally responsible solutions. Now that one political party will control the legislative and executive branches of state government, it will be important for the public to be engaged and involved to ensure the state doesn't spend beyond its means.
"There were a lot of promises made, and time will tell if the next governor will cut programs or raise taxes to pay for them," Taylor said.
Public-opinion polls had Abercrombie ahead in hypothetical matchups in the governor's race since January, but no poll predicted his victory margin would be so large. A poll taken for the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now in mid-October showed Abercrombie leading by 8 percentage points, while private polls just before the vote had the former congressman up by more than 10 points.
Abercrombie finished with 222,510 votes to Aiona's 157,098.
Abercrombie campaigned on the same message of change that Hawaii-born President Barack Obama employed two years ago. An exit poll taken for the Associated Press found that Obama's job approval is highest in his home state. Voters who approved of the president's job performance overwhelmingly supported Abercrombie.
The pattern on Tuesday -- if it holds when the official count is posted -- was nearly a complete reversal of 2006, when Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Aiona took all 51 House districts on the way to re-election.
"This was a grass-roots campaign of everyday people working together and taking responsibility," Laurie Au, a spokeswoman for the Abercrombie campaign, said in an e-mail. "This is how an Abercrombie-Schatz administration will govern.
"The results of this election show that the people of Hawaii responded to Neil Abercrombie's call for change to build a better future for Hawaii," Au said.
Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, who is close to Abercrombie, said he believes Abercrombie did better than Aiona in the debates. He also said the campaign had a rapid response to criticism from his opponents and made effective use of social media.
Cayetano said he thought the polls tightened at one point because Aiona pressed Abercrombie on how he would pay for some of the new state programs he has proposed. But he thinks Aiona was damaged by questions about his ties to religious conservatives.
"To win a campaign, you define your opponent and in this case, he defined himself, and I think it really hurt him," Cayetano said of Aiona. "Too bad. I like the guy. He's a nice guy."
Cayetano said Hawaii bucked the tide on the mainland Tuesday, where Republicans scored big gains. "I think the fact that Neil won -- I mean, the guy's 72 years old, and he wins a big win like this -- it shows the Democrats still have a great deal of power in this state."
During his two terms, Cayetano often clashed with majority Democrats in the state Legislature. Abercrombie has said he wants to work collaboratively with state House and Senate leaders and end the rancor of the Lingle years, which was fueled by partisanship. Republicans picked up two seats in the House, but Democrats still hold a 43-to-8 majority. The GOP lost a seat in the Senate, where Democrats now dominate 24 to 1.
"I don't know if it's healthy for Hawaii politics, but it's not the responsibility of the Democrats to elect more Republicans," Cayetano said. "The Republicans have to come up with better candidates and a better message, because the message that they came up with, it may work on the mainland, but it's not working here."
Star-Advertiser staff writer Ken Kobayashi and Assistant City Editor Andy Yamaguchi contributed to this story.