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Abercrombie takes oath to become Hawaii's 7th governor

By Staff and News services

LAST UPDATED: 4:25 p.m. HST, Dec 6, 2010

Neil Abercrombie was sworn in today as Hawaii's seventh governor, promising a cooperative administration that will bring a "new day" for Hawaii

"The sun rose today, the beginning of a new day," Abercrombie said in his inaugural speech. "What becomes of this day is in the hands of all of us." 

During his speech, Abercrombie talked about making Hawaii more sustainable and of working together to improve the state.

"Our driving message will be, make it happen. Make it happen by working together," he said in a 9-minute speech.

"We will face challenges, but we will not let these become excuses,'" Abercrombie said. "We will let our actions speak as we move forward toward our common goals."

He said his first priority will be to promote efforts to help the state's economy.

"Our first job is to accelerate the economic recovery, restoration of good jobs, create good jobs, capitalize on new opportunities, work smarter, work in partnerships to optimize our jobs," Abercrombie said.

The governor didn't talk about how he would sustain government services while also fulfilling campaign promises to end government worker furloughs while dealing with rising Medicaid and state laborer health care costs.

Abercrombie's swearing-in was followed by that of Lt. Gov-elect Brian Schatz.

They will succeed Republican Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, who served two four-year terms.

The ceremony at Iolani Palace began at about 9:45 a.m.  beneath blue skies and Abercrombie took the oath of office at noon.

Before Abercrombie took office, attendee Edith Hanohano reflected upon past inaugurals she has witnessed.

The retiree from Kaimuki said the event has grown to include more pomp and ceremony from those of Govs. William Quinn and John Burns, but she felt much the same as she did back when she attended those inaugurals.

"It looks to be a bright future," she said. "I hope that he will stick with all of the plans he has proposed."

Organizers expected between 5,000 and 6,000 attendees for the swearing-in ceremony.

By 11:30, most of the seats surrounding the palace gazebo had been filled as guests — invited and members of the public I awaited the procession of dignitaries.

Kahala resident Steve Camara, an avid Abercrombie supporter, said he was both "excited and hopeful."

"I think Hawaii all kind of sat back and witnessed what it was like to see what happens in government with an adversarial style," said Camara, 44, a respiratory therapist at Queen's Medical Center. "Now this year everything congealed into one well-functioning mechanism.

"I'm excited to witness the difference."

Abercrombie is Hawaii's seventh elected governor. He beat Aiona with 58 percent of the vote., a 17 percentage point victory margin.

Before facing Aiona, Abercrombie won the Democratic Primary over past rival Muff Hannemann.

Abercrombie has a long history in Hawaii politics.

When he first ran for political office in 1970, challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Hiram Fong, Abercrombie gave out wooden nickels with his campaign literature along University Avenue near the Manoa University of Hawaii campus where he earned a master's degree in sociology in 1964 and a doctorate in American studies 10 years later.

Besides his long flowing beard and shoulder length-hair, Abercrombie's trademark during his early years in local politics -- which included stints in the state House  from 1975-1979, state Senate from 1979-1986 and Honolulu City Council from 1988 to 1990 -- included driving a car decorated like a New York yellow taxicab.

In the state House and  Senate Abercrombie generally sided with dissident Democrats, who included Charles Toguchi, Ben Cayetano, Dante Carpenter, Lehua Fernandes Salling and Clayton Hee.

Abercrombie, 72, first ran for the U.S. House in 1986 when Democrat Cecil Heftel resigned to run for governor. He won that special election to fill Heftel's unexpired term and held the seat for one year, but lost the Democratic primary to Hannemann, who subsequently lost to Republican Pat Saiki.

After completing serving a term on the Honolulu City Council, Abercrombie again sought a seat in the U.S. House from Hawaii's 1st Congressional District. He held that seat for 20 years before resigning in February to run for governor.

Abercrombie was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and earned his bachelor's degree in sociology from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. in 1959 -- the year Hawaii achieved statehood.

While studying at the University of Hawaii Abercrombie became close friends of President Barack Obama's parents -- Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr.

He married Nancie Caraway in 1981, an UH political scientist.

Abercrombie also co-wrote a fiction novel "Blood of Patriots," which centers around a band of terrorists crashing into the House of Representatives and killing 124 of its members, then fleeing in helicopters.

A weightlifter, Abercrombie celebrated his 72nd birthday in June by benched pressing 272 pounds.


Star-Advertiser reporters B.J. Reyes and Gregg K. Kakesako and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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