Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, left, addresses the supporters of Hawaii State Sen. David Ige as Ige, right, looks, Aug. 9, 2014, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ige defeated Abercrombie in the state's primary election to win the Democratic Party's nomination.
Eugene Tanner/AP

Obama-endorsed Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie loses primary


Despite personal endorsements from President Barack Obama, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Saturday became the state’s first governor to lose a reelection primary, ousted by State Sen. David Ige. 

Fellow Democrat Ige, who easily claimed victory with 67.8% of the vote (Abercrombie had 31.1% of the vote), disrupted the party when he challenged the sitting governor – and made history when the AP called the race less than two hours after polls closed.

To add even more drama to the Democratic party, the race for U.S. Senate is still too close to declare a winner. With 1,788 votes separating Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa  – with a potential 8,000 votes yet to be calculated – neither conceded Saturday night.

For Abercrombie, at 76 years old, a 40-year political career is likely over.

“Faith and trust has been placed in me, and I’ve tried to honor that faith and trust. Whatever shortcomings I have, whatever faults I have, I can guarantee you one has never been a failure to give all I can every day I can for Hawaii,” Abercrombie said Saturday evening.

Abercrombie, who had been sinking in recent polls, is only the second governor to not win reelection in the state’s history.

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In May, with a signature from the governor, Hawaii became the third state to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to %10.10. ”I always thought it’s not a minimum wage, it’s a survival wage,” Abercrombie said at the time. Hawaii also became the 15th state to legalize marriage equality during Abercrombie’s tenure as governor.

Ige, despite trailing significantly in campaign finances, bet on Abercrombie’s decreased popularity to win the vote – mostly stemming from the governor’s proposal last year to raise taxes – and offered a new political path for Hawaiians. He has served in the state legislature for 28 years. 

The win “proves that people power can be money power, especially in Hawaii,” Ige said. 

In July, Obama cut a radio ad to help Abercrombie’s chances, applauding the governor’s leadership in the state and offered some personal sentiment. “He knew my parents before I was a twinkle in their eye, and he was one of the first people anywhere to step up and support me for president. So you could say that Gov. Abercrombie has had my back since before I was born,” Obama said in the ad.

Ige will face Republican challenger former lieutenant governor Duke Aiona in the November election.

Barack Obama and Hawaii

Obama-endorsed Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie loses primary