POSTED: 6:46 p.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010
On the last weekend before Tuesday's big election, Hawaii's two major candidates for governor hit the road, crisscrossing Honolulu to fire up the troops and stimulate turnout.
And at least for the Democrats, the road started out a bit rocky.
On Sunday, the trolley carrying Neil Abercrombie, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, 1st Congressional District contender Colleen Hanabusa and two dozen other activists broke down an hour into a five-hour tour of Honolulu.
But a replacement trolley soon appeared. And by the end of the caravan, Abercrombie, a former congressman who is known for his passionate oratory, delivered a rousing speech before 200-plus Filipino-Americans and party activists at a Kalihi rally.
"We've had eight years of gloom. We've had eight years of doom," he said, referring to the administration of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona. "But now we're going to have eight years of growth and light....Light is coming to Hawaii!"
Aiona, the GOP gubernatorial nominee, on Saturday waved signs at several busy Oahu intersections amid dozens or hundreds of exuberant supporters. At one stop, at Mililani Town Center, allies sign-waved across the street from a small Democratic rally.
Buoyed by that enthusiasm and the positive response of honking, waving drivers, Aiona said he believes swelling momentum will put him over the top on Tuesday.
"I felt the momentum shift a couple months ago," Aiona, 55, said at an intersection near Kailua. "It feels like we've got a lot of momentum coming in the right direction. So I feel good."
The contest between Aiona and Abercrombie appears close, according to recent voter surveys. Aware of that, the campaigns revved up their activities the last several days — even though as many as half the voters may already have voted by absentee ballot or at early voting sites.
That didn't faze Aiona's allies, who packed a half-dozen school buses and several cars in a Saturday convoy that began at 8 a.m. and ended with a late afternoon rally.
"It's just doing my part to see the right person become governor," said Tisha Lehfeldt, 43, who drove a red convertible Mini-Cooper from stop to stop with friends. "He's a man of faith and he's not afraid to communicate that."
Aiona's religious faith was a recurring theme among his sign wavers. Some held placards reading "Christians for Aiona" and "No on HB444," legislation vetoed by Lingle earlier this year and opposed by Aiona and conservative Christians that would have granted gay couples the right to form civil unions.
"The bills that I'm opposed to, he's opposed to," said Larry Allar, 48, who sign-waved in Mililani. "Civil unions is a big one."
Aiona mentioned his religious faith — he's Catholic — at a meeting of mostly Samoans and Tongans at Kuhio Park Terrace, a low-income housing complex. But most of his 13-minute talk centered on caring for children and staying away from drugs.
"It's easier to build strong children than to fix broken adults," he told about four dozen residents.
Abercrombie's backers were no less excited or determined.
"He's helped a lot of Filipino people," Hynie Malabanan, 64, said at the Kalihi rally Sunday, citing Abercrombie's aid to Filipinos who fought the Japanese during World War II. "Every time you go ask for help from him, he's always right there. So he's good for us."
Vina Lanzona said she likes Abercrombie's education policies and disliked the school furloughs earlier this year that Lingle had a hand in implementing.
"We think Abercrombie will not do that to public education," the University of Hawaii professor said.
Despite the trolley mishap that played havoc with the Democrats' Sunday schedule, Abercrombie, 72, was ebullient at the Kalihi rally.
"I'm riding a wave of encouragement," he said as he walked up and down the aisles of a school hall. "Oh, I'm rolling now....I'm feeling so much energy, my hair may grow back."