The Hawaii State Teachers Association today endorsed Gov. David Ige in the Democratic primary for the hotly contested governor’s race.
Ige, who was an engineer and served in the state Legislature for nearly 30 years before becoming governor, is being challenged in the Democratic primary this year by U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and former state Sen. Clayton Hee, who only announced his candidacy in February.
Hanabusa, who is in her fifth year in Congress, is a lawyer, who served in the Hawaii Senate for 12 years.
The 13,700 public school members teachers union previously backed Ige in his 2014 race against then Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
“It is a privilege of HSTA to recommend Gov. David Ige for four more years as governor because he has been a leader for human and civil rights as well as a strong advocate for Hawaii’s public schools, teachers and keiki,” said HSTA President Corey Rosenlee.
Last year, the teachers union and the state agreed on a four-year contract that includes pay raises.
Ige said at a press conference today at HSTA headquarters that the endorsement was “fundamentally important” to his campaign because “teachers become advocates in each and every community.”
“I’m a graduate of the public schools. I’m a product of teachers. My entire life I have been shaped by teachers. I can’t tell you how excited and happy I am to receive their endorsement,” he said.
The Hanabusa for Governor campaign issued a statement shortly after HSTA’s announcement saying that the decision did not lessen her respect, admiration and record of support for Hawaii’s public school teachers.
“The Congresswoman believes our greatest responsibility is the education of future generations and our workforce. As governor, she would continue her strong support of public education and educators, from elementary schools to trade schools and universities, empowering our teachers versus micromanaging,” the Hanabusa for Governor campaign said.” What our state’s education system needs most, what our entire state needs, is inclusiveness and leadership, and everyone working collectively toward educational excellence.”
Ige, who was HSTA’s pick in 2014, and Abercrombie, who was their pick in 2010, ultimately won. But by all accounts Ige is in for a tough battle this year.
A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll taken just months away from the Aug. 11 primary showed Hanabusa with a 20-percentage-point lead over Ige.
The March poll found 47 percent of likely Democratic voters support Hanabusa if the election were held today, while only 27 percent said they would vote for Ige. Former state Sen. Clayton Hee trailed his two fellow Democrats at 11 percent.
Several top state lawmakers also haven’t shied away from showing support for Hanabusa. Days before this year’s legislative session opened, Senate President Ron Kouchi, Senate Vice President Michelle Kidani, House Speaker Scott Saiki and House Finance Chairwoman Sylvia Luke all attended the formal launch of Hanabusa’s campaign.
Ige later criticized Saiki, Luke, Kouchi and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz for signing an invitation to a Hanabusa fundraiser, which he alleged gave the impression that anyone who wanted legislative action needed to donate to Hanabusa. These lawmakers denied the charge, which seemed to set the tone for a contentious legislative session — that ended with some top lawmakers criticizing Ige for exhibiting a lack of leadership.