President Barack Obama made a personal pitch to Hawaii Democrats yesterday, telling them that today’s general election is just as important as his victory two years ago to make progress on issues such as education and health care.
In an afternoon conference call with several hundred potential Democratic voters, the Hawaii-born president urged them to support former U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie for governor and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa for Congress.
"You’ve got real choices and real opportunities to make positive change," Obama said from Washington, D.C. "The type of change you voted for when you elected me as president."
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, the Republican candidate for governor, and U.S. Rep. Charles Djou, R-Hawaii, spent the final day before the vote visiting businesses and sign-waving.
"I’m not running against President Obama; I’m running against Neil Abercrombie," Aiona said. "So I want to focus on exactly what we’ve been talking about for the last couple of weeks, and that is that my opponent hasn’t been honest with the people of the state of Hawaii. Again, I point out that he has never ever told the people of Hawaii how he’s going to pay for everything he said he was going to do."
Obama’s telephone call was part of the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s get-out-the-vote efforts as majority Democrats closed the campaign with their traditional rally last night in Hilo.
The president, who previously recorded television advertisements for Abercrombie and Hanabusa, made tailored appeals.
"With Neil as governor, the state budget isn’t going to be balanced on the backs of schoolchildren and public school teachers," he said. "There is not going to be any Furlough Fridays. He understands that’s not acceptable if we’re going to give our kids the education they need.
"Hawaii will realize its potential to be a national leader in clean renewable energy. Neil knows how to bring people together. And he understands that Hawaii’s diversity is its greatest strength."
Obama described Hanabusa as a potential ally in Congress.
"She represents Hawaii’s values with her message of hope, and compassion, respect for elders," he said. "She’s combined that with a tenacity for standing up for working families. We know she’s going to protect Social Security and Medicare. She’s going to stand up for consumers and small businesses. She’s going to allow us to move forward with reforms that put Main Street ahead of Wall Street."
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On a personal note, Obama said he looked forward to his regular visit to Hawaii during the Christmas holidays. "I love you guys, and I look forward to seeing you in person," he said.
Abercrombie, meanwhile, reported raising $608,799 in late contributions to bring his fundraising total for the campaign to more than $4.3 million. Brian Schatz, former Democratic Party chairman and state lawmaker, Abercrombie’s lieutenant governor running mate, raised $110,560 in late contributions.
Aiona, by comparison, raised $280,970 in late contributions and more than $3.4 million for the campaign. State House Minority Leader Lynn Finnegan, Aiona’s lieutenant governor running mate, raised $72,336 in late contributions.
Djou’s campaign reported a final cash influx of $33,000, according to federal campaign finance reports. The donations included $4,000 from the Pacific Victory Committee and $2,500 each from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Independent Community Bankers PAC and the American Academy of Ophthalmology PAC.
Hanabusa’s campaign reported late contributions totaling $33,000 in the past three days. Her contributions included $5,000 from the Transport Workers Union Political Contributions Committee and $2,000 from Tesoro Petroleum Corp. PAC.
Both Djou and Hanabusa have collected more than $2 million for their campaigns.
Djou and Hanabusa worked for votes yesterday through sign-waving as well as getting out into the community and doing media interviews.
Djou was on TV and radio yesterday morning before visiting with small businesses, campaign spokesman Daniel Son said. He later paid a visit to staff and patients at Hawaii Medical Center East, the former St. Francis Hospital in Liliha.
The plan for today is "lots and lots and lots of phone-banking," Djou said. "We have our list of people who we want to make sure get out and vote."
Hanabusa spent the day waving signs and doing media interviews. She also met with workers at Oahu Transit Services on Middle Street. Richard Rapoza, her campaign spokesman, said the campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort includes canvassing, phone-banking and using e-mail to remind voters to get to the polls.
The Obama conference call included appeals from U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, along with Abercrombie and Hanabusa.
"It is an important election because it’s going to define who we are and, more importantly, the Hawaii that we want," Hanabusa told voters.
Abercrombie, who knew Obama’s parents at the University of Hawaii-Manoa and was one of the first backers of his presidential campaign, described his relationship with the president as the "Abercrombie advantage."
"It doesn’t mean that the president of the United States is going to do special things for Hawaii that he wouldn’t do for anybody else," he said. "What it means is the president of the United States understands and knows Hawaii. And he understands the unique circumstances we have here, the unique opportunities and possibilities we have in Hawaii.
"So he’s going to be supportive of that with a governor who is able to reach out to him and speak to him not just in personal terms, but who is able to draw on the experience that I’ve had in the Congress and with the Legislature."
Aiona has been stressing his experience not only as lieutenant governor, but as a judge and a father of four as examples of his ability to make difficult decisions and hold responsibility. He has also been telling voters of the need for political balance in a state dominated by Democrats.
"I am ready to lead," he said.