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Editorial | On Politics

Abercrombie looking to build wide-ranging Democratic Party


If American government is designed as a series of checks and balances, Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie says critics are labeling Gov. Linda Lingle’s two terms as "all checks and no balances."

Changing that is one of Abercrombie’s immediate goals.

"Here today is an opportunity for us to do great things together. I am making it easy for them to see that this is someone looking to work with them," Abercrombie said the morning after his decisive victory over GOP Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona.

For the most part, Hawaii’s Democratic governors dance well with the somewhat unwieldy mass of D’s in the Legislature. It was only in the last years of Gov. Ben Cayetano’s two terms that the Legislature summoned up the interest in overriding a gubernatorial veto.

Since Lingle came into office, however, she has seen an average of more than seven vetoes overridden each year.

Abercrombie comes into office packing 40 years of political experience learned from serving in the state Legislature, City Council and U.S. Congress.

Important for the 72-year-old fiery Democrat are changes to his own state Democratic Party.

"I intend to be very active on that," Abercrombie said. "I mean in taking the terrific foundation of grassroots and what I like to call ‘netroots’ participation and expansion and parlay that into active Democratic Party membership."

He has seen the payoff in party registration from the 2008 surge, thanks to excited islanders drawn to the Democratic Party caucus to vote for Hawaii-born Barack Obama.

The Democrats, already solidly in control of the state Legislature and Hawaii congressional delegation, recaptured the governor’s office with Abercrombie’s victory Tuesday night.

The win means that Republicans will have little chance of expansion, although for Abercrombie, political growth is possible within the Democratic Party.

"You have quite a range of options within the Democratic Party," Abercrombie said, pointing to the heated battle between himself and former Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary.

"You talk about one-party domination; come on, we have competition within the Democratic Party," Abercrombie said during an interview.

As for himself within the party, Abercrombie said, "My goal is to disappear."

"You should never govern with the idea that everything revolves around you; you need to put in place an institutional foundation," Abercrombie said.

Institutional foundations, perhaps; newly elected Gov. Neil Abercrombie disappearing, not likely.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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