A rock-hard constant in the life of Neil Abercrombie is his love for the YMCA and lifting weights.
“I would come here every day if I could,” the former governor says.
“I never hear a mean thing said here or feel a bad vibe,” he says. “All people want to do is help.”
We are in the weight room of the Nuuanu Y, where Civil Beat photographer Cory Lum is taking pictures while I converse with Abercrombie about what he’s been doing in the seven months after his gubernatorial primary election defeat by David Ige.
I interviewed Abercrombie in this same YMCA weight room in 2010, the day before his upset primary election victory over Mufi Hannemann, after which Abercrombie went on to become Hawaii’s seventh elected governor.
Now for the first time in 40 years, Abercrombie the politician is Abercrombie the private citizen.
As he huffs through three repetitions of standing barbell curls, I ask him what he misses most about being governor.
Abercrombie gives a sincere, politically correct answer: “I miss working with the people — the dedicated people I worked with for whom public service was not a phase but a way of life.”
But he quickly adds, “What I don’t miss is the phony drama, the drama that is created by the instant commentary that is antithetic to the spreading of knowledge, drama that is created by a lack of understanding.
“It is strange but the more access we have to the communications media, the less access we have to real knowledge.”
With two weeks left in office, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has the future of the planet in mind.
He hosted an intimate event Monday evening at Washington Place for experts in climate change to speak before a small crowd of influential policymakers, lawyers and business leaders.
But before they delivered their passionate presentations detailing the impending troubles, the governor carved out a moment to make a pitch for William Aila to remain head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Abercrombie urged everyone in attendance to ask Gov.-elect David Ige to retain Aila in the next administration so he can follow through with critical plans concerning climate preparedness and watershed protection.
Ige, who takes office Dec. 1, has yet to name any cabinet members save for Mike McCartney, the Hawaii Tourism Authority president who will become his chief of staff, and Ford Fuchigami, who will step down as head of Honolulu’s Department of Enterprise Services to lead the state Department of Transportation.
Abercrombie heaped praise on Aila for the job he’s done the past four years.
Aila said Tuesday that he’s applied for the job through Ige’s transition team and was honored to have Abercrombie’s support.
The outgoing governor blamed special interest groups for stalling efforts to combat climate change, saying they seem to be waiting for Harry Potter to wave his wand and create a perfect solution.
“You’re going to have
Editor’s Note: Civil Beat asked Mufi Hannemann, the Hawaii Independent Party candidate for governor, numerous times throughout September for an interview for this story but he was never available.
Hawaii is the only state that isn’t broken up by multiple school districts. That means Hawaii — whose population of roughly 1.4 million people makes it the 11th smallest state — actually encompasses one of the largest school districts in the country.
The ninth largest one, to be exact, costing taxpayers nearly $1.5 billion dollars annually for operations alone. Together, the Department of Education and charter schools are the state’s single biggest expense.
The state’s school district serves more than 185,000 students (and their parents) and roughly 25,000 employees, a little over half of whom are teachers. From Niihau to Keaau, that district comprises a hodgepodge of cultures and income groups, school contexts and learning needs.
And according to both Duke Aiona and David Ige — the Republican and Democrat vying to be Hawaii’s next governor — therein lies one of the greatest challenges facing public education in the state.
In fact, the two candidates have a lot in common when it comes to assessing Hawaii’s public schools. One of the only education issues on which they appear to disagree strongly is the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to amend Hawaii’s constitution and permit the allocation of public funds for private
Gov. Neil Abercrombie wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect to lose his bid for re-election.
His Aug. 9 loss in the Democratic primary to Sen. David Ige also seems to have caught the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts off guard.
The foundation is responsible for the official portrait that Hawaii governors have had done for the past century when their term comes to an end. But the board, apparently expecting Abercrombie to be in office another four years, did not approve the $45,000 budget and nine-month timeline for his portrait until Wednesday.
The portraits are normally unveiled in November or December before the next governor takes office. If Abercrombie’s portrait goes according to plan, the painting won’t be completed until May and the unveiling won’t take place until late June.
The foundation has yet to solicit potential artists. That’s expected to start Oct. 1 with a post on www.callforentry.org. Abercrombie and First Lady Nancie Caraway will then choose an artist Dec. 31, according to the timeline the board approved.
The budget for the portrait is $40,000, which includes $35,000 for the artist’s fees, airfare, hotel, car and per diem; $2,500 for the photographer’s expenses; $2,000 for the frame and plaque; and $500 for crating, shipping
Enactment of marriage equality was a major accomplishment of the Abercrombie administration. But is that really the reason Gov. Neil Abercrombie was overwhelmingly rejected by voters pulling the Democratic Party ballot on Aug. 9?
That’s what the governor told The Associated Press last week, in a story that was picked up across the country.
“Republicans crossed over en masse to vote in the Democratic primary, and then the religious factor came in,” the AP reported Abercrombie saying. “Doctrinally I was outside the circle and paid for it.”
There may have been some voters who chose to dump Abercrombie because of his ordering of a special session of the Hawaii Legislature in the fall of 2013. But it was likely at best only one of many reasons, as has been widely reported.
The AP itself said voters interviewed at polling stations “did not mention gay marriage as their reason for voting for other candidates. Instead they complained about the way Abercrombie handled contract negotiations with teachers and his proposal to tax pensioners.”
The Mantle of Martyr
What the governor appears to be doing is rejecting the heap of criticism over his governing style and positions and instead assuming the mantle of martyr to make himself feel better for such a humiliating loss — the worst of any sitting governor in the history of the nation in a primary.
Abercrombie himself hinted at his martyrdom
Now that dust has settled, it might be helpful to turn to the Hawaiian pidgin English dictionary to get a better grip on why Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie was so handily blasted out of office by his underfunded and relatively unknown challenger, state Sen. David Ige.
On Primary Election Day, Ige was still so unfamiliar to some voters, I heard a fellow refer to him as “the Japanese guy running against Abercrombie.”
A key reason Abercrombie became Hawaii’s first incumbent governor to lose a primary election is what I call the “Wot, Boddah You? “ factor.
Boddah You (bah dah YOU) or Why, Boddah You? in pidgin or Hawaiian Creole English means, “Whaaat, you got a problem with what I am doing?” Or more bluntly, “You don’t like what I am doing? Well, F-bomb you.”
In pidgin, this is known as “attitude” or “get attitude.” And it is not a nice way for a politician to “ ack” or act.
Almost from the beginning of his first year in office, Abercrombie began to belittle and blame his critics, sometimes shouting them down — most famously on Maui. Abercrombie’s heated exchange with a group of Maui nurses in May 2011 was recorded on amateur video and went viral. The governor leaned forward to shout and point his finger
We’re at the end of an era, one that many people 40 years ago, surely never thought they’d see, “the Abercrombie era.”
And we are at the beginning of a new era, one that would not exist had it not been for Neil Abercrombie.
What many of us do not realize, given Neil’s style of public presentation, is that he is — and always has been — a “team player.”
For example, few people outside of Dan Inouye’s inner circle, ever knew that it was his decision to call for the entire Hawaii congressional team to support the late senator in 1992 — when he was accused of sexually abusing his female barber — that saved the day for “Big Dan.”
The dissatisfaction of that same inner circle when it came to appointing the late Senator’s successor in 2012 shows that “long memories” are usually very selective in politics.
Whatever you think about Neil’s tenure as governor, everybody saw the first thing he did after 40 years in office was to go to David Ige’s headquarters and congratulate his opponent, and pledge his full support in the general election. No second guesses, no regrets. It was a class act.
How did the primary night results come about? John Bickel, president of Americans for Democratic Action-Hawaii, offered this analysis: “Hawaii is basically a liberal electorate and disappointed liberals withheld their support in droves.”
Why? The full
State Sen. David Ige has won a historic victory in the Hawaii governor’s race, knocking out Gov. Neil Abercrombie in an unprecedented defeat for an incumbent governor.
Ige defeated Abercrombie 66 percent to 31 percent, according to the 3:25 a.m. results posted early Sunday.
The Associated Press called the race for Ige at about 7:45 p.m. and news outlets began declaring victory for the state senator soon after.
The governor conceded the race not long after 9 p.m.
With his wife, Nancie Caraway, and many supporters standing by him, the governor said he would do all he could to make sure Ige succeeded him in office.
He also said he had no regrets.
“Every waking breath has been for you, Hawaii,” he said. “I have given all I can every day I can.”
The governor vowed to be behind Ige “100 percent, because the governor’s office belongs to the people of Hawaii.”
“Hawaii is everything to me. Anything I can do — whatever experience I have — everything is going to be committed to this campaign,” Abercrombie said before heading over to Ige’s campaign headquarters. “The party is going to be in good hands.”
Meanwhile, at Ige campaign headquarters, temperatures inside the campaign party were hot but supporters in a sea of blue campaign shirts didn’t mind. They fanned themselves with blue Ige campaign fans, hugged each other
Hurricane Iselle, the first hurricane that could hit the Big island in more than 20 years, was steadily churning toward Hilo and expected to make landfall Thursday.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio is advancing toward the islands and could strike the Big Island as soon as Sunday. On Wednesday evening, Julio was 1,450 miles east of Hilo, about 1,000 miles behind Iselle.
On Wednesday, Iselle was considered a category 1 hurricane. On Tuesday evening it appeared as though the cyclone was weakening, but then it started to strengthen Wednesday. It’s expected to make its way across the rest of the state on Friday.
“Because it’s maintaining its strength right now, it’s minimizing the likelihood that it’s going to weaken,” National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Cantin said Wednesday afternoon. “It’ll be a rough end of the week for us.”
Officials are saying little about Julio at this point, noting that it’s still too far away from the archipelago to speculate about its impact on the islands.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the Big Island — the first such advisory to be issued for the island in more than a decade — while a flash flood watch is in effect across the entire state through Saturday morning. As of Wednesday afternoon, tropical storm warnings had been issued for most
Gov. Neil Abercrombie plans to visit with seniors on Kauai this week. He will also visit Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, greet kupuna and meet with high school seniors on Maui.
On Sunday, Abercrombie will celebrate “linking generations” with Japanese-American women, attend the United Filipino Council of Hawaii’s annual convention and make remarks at the Moiliili Senior Center.
Next Wednesday, the governor plans to go to a Hawaiian home lands groundbreaking in Kapolei and proclaim a “Pedestrian Safety Month.”
Kupuna. Students. Military. Women. Filipinos. Japanese. Hawaiians. Kauai. Maui.
All happen to represent important voter blocs, and Abercrombie, in a tougher-than-expected re-election campaign, is right to reach out to them.
There’s just one thing: The schedule above is not part of his campaign. It’s his official office agenda.
Does anyone really think our governor is not using the taxpayers’ hard-earned cash to give himself a leg up in his bid for re-election?
Earlier this month we wrote about a rash of bill-signing ceremonies the governor’s office held — including five in one day and several on Maui and the Big Island.
The ceremonies allowed the governor to pose for hundreds of photos with lots of happy constituents — also known as voters.
The bill signings and the official visits essentially amount to campaigning: an elected official eagerly glad-handling and engaging in retail politics.
Abercrombie racks up the miles on a mix of public and personal business.
Overcrowding and aging facilities have the state looking at an expensive overhaul of its prison system.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie is requesting $132,000 in emergency appropriations from the Legislature.
Abercrombie left Oahu 11 times in June and July, costing taxpayers $27,000.