Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie is calling on Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard to resign from her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, telling reporters today that her missed votes and absence from her district amid her bid for the presidency were unacceptable.
Abercrombie is a co-chair of State Sen. Kai Kahele’s campaign to claim Gabbard’s House seat, though he said he was speaking in his personal capacity as a former member of Congress.
Abercrombie served nine terms in the House, from 1993 to 2010, representing urban Oahu.
“I believe people in the second district deserve representation and are not getting it and they are unlikely to be able to get it over the next year,” Abercrombie said during a press conference on the steps of the Prince Kuhio Federal Building in downtown Honolulu on Monday morning.
Gabbard announced in October that she would not be seeking reelection to her House seat next year. Her term runs through the end of 2020.
Abercrombie said Gabbard’s “present” vote on impeaching President Donald Trump last week reinforced his view that she should step aside so that a special election could be held for her seat.
In voting “present,” Gabbard essentially abstained from the vote. She was the sole member of Congress to do so, generating national headlines. Gabbard said that while Trump was guilty of wrongdoing, the impeachment process led by the Democrats was too partisan.
Abercrombie said that her vote had to do with her presidential bid, not her duties in representing Hawaii’s second congressional district, which includes rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
He said that despite “her best intentions,” Gabbard had shown that she couldn’t juggle her presidential campaign and duties to her constituents at home.
“A whole lot of things are going to be going on and happening here and in Washington over the next year and to essentially deprive half the state of Hawaii of representation in that sense is unacceptable,” said Abercrombie.
Gabbard’s presidential bid has struggled to gain traction. She failed to qualify for last week’s debate sponsored by the Democratic National Committee and her national polling average hovers at just 1.7%, according to Real Clear Politics. Still, Gabbard has indicated that she plans to stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention in July even as other candidates have been dropping out.
Gabbard has missed 86% of votes in the House, where she earns an annual salary of $174,000.
Other candidates for president who serve in Congress have missed a similar amount of votes.
Gabbard hasn’t held a town hall in her district since 2017. She recently rented a house in New Hampshire where she is focusing on drumming up support for her presidential bid in the early voting state.
Gabbard has not responded to requests to comment on Abercrombie’s remarks.
Abercrombie supported Gabbard early on in her career as a member of Congress, but in February announced that he was supporting Kahele’s bid for Gabbard’s House seat. Abercrombie currently serves as a co-chair of Kahele’s campaign, along with former Govs. John Waihee and Ben Cayetano.
He said that a special election would afford the new House member seniority if they were to win the general election in November.
A special election could help Kahele’s chances to win Gabbard’s House seat. He currently doesn’t face any serious competition, but that could easily change next year as the primary approaches.
Kahele has criticized Gabbard’s absence from her congressional duties, saying that it’s essentially left the district “voiceless.”
As Gabbard took criticism for her “present” vote on impeachment this past week, he tweeted, “Put me in coach! I’m ready.”