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Hawaii’s governor ousted in surprise primary loss

August 10, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie lost his bid for a second term in a stunning primary election defeat by a fellow Democrat and state senator who defied party leadership to challenge him. A second intra-party fight for U.S. Senate was too close to call.

State Senator David Ige, once seen as an underdog, cruised to a decisive 35 percentage point win in Saturday’s primary after being dramatically outspent by Abercrombie, who also had high-profile endorsements including President Barack Obama.

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

Tropical Storm Iselle, which pounded parts of the state earlier this week, left the heated contest between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Brian Schatz and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa too close to declare a winner.

Elections officials postponed voting in two precincts in the remote Puna region of the Big Island, deciding that damaged roads would make it unsafe for voters to get to the polls. With Schatz holding only a narrow lead over Hanabusa, both candidates will have to wait for the results from mail-in ballots.

Abercrombie called his four years as governor “a singular honor,” and pledged in an email to help Ige “with every ounce of energy I possess.”

The governor, who was seen as confrontational, angered many voters with a proposal last year to raise a host of taxes. The politically influential teachers union also campaigned for Ige after Abercrombie imposed a contract that cut their pay by 5 percent after negotiations failed.

Ige is a respected state senator who served in the Legislature for 28 years.

Abercrombie’s decision to appoint Schatz to the U.S. Senate seat after the death of beloved political icon U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, who died in 2012, also angered many Hawaii voters. Before he died, Inouye told Abercrombie he wanted him to appoint Hanabusa to his seat.

Hanabusa evoked Inouye’s name throughout the campaign while Schatz touted his endorsement from Obama. Both candidates played up their ability to steer federal dollars to Hawaii.

The winners of each race will face Republicans and independent candidates in the November election, but such campaigns are often longshots in heavily Democratic Hawaii.

Voters Saturday also chose state Representative Mark Takai in a seven-way Democratic contest to represent urban Honolulu in the U.S. Congress. He faces Republican Charles Djou in November.

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Associated Press writers Marco Garcia, Lorin Eleni Gill, Kalani Takase and Manuel Valdes contributed to this report.

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