- Special Projects
Former Congressman Neil Abercrombie is Hawaii’s next governor. He’ll take the oath of office in December, but the transition is underway. Abercrombie’s team isn’t wasting any time, and neither are we. Civil Beat is reporting from the inside.
Updated 5:16 p.m.
It’s clear the governor-elect is eager to get to work. Abercrombie is giving people about 10 days to get job applications in before he starts reviewing them, and his team will set up shop at the state capitol tomorrow. That temporary space will be for staffers to act as liaisons to the public before Abercrombie moves onto the fifth floor when he’s inaugurated in December.
Moving quickly during the transition is a priority for the governor-elect, though he said he knows everything can’t happen at once.
“Some of this is just a question of taking a couple of deep breaths,” he said. “If I can take a little time off in the process of actually doing things, I will.”
After meeting with reporters, Abercrombie chatted with supporters — about UH football — who began filtering into his campaign headquarters for karaoke night. The governor-elect made a fairly quick exit, as he had many more “thank you” phone calls to make before he greets campaign volunteers for this evening’s event. The fun begins around 5:30 p.m.
Civil Beat’s Gov Watch continues tomorrow.
Governor-elect Abercrombie rejects the idea that the Republican takeover in the U.S. House of Representatives will hurt his administration’s ability to secure federal monies for the state. He said his near-20 years in Washington, D.C., trump partisan politicking.
“My relationship with members of Congress remain,” Abercrombie said. “I served 12 years in the minority of the Congress of the United States with Democrat and Republican presidents, and I’ve served in the majority with a president who was of the opposite party. I’ve had the experience on all sides. Those who will now chair committees at this juncture are virtually all friends of mine.”
Abercrombie also pointed out that the new speaker of the House, Ohio’s John Boehner, started his career in Washington the same year Abercrombie did.
He also said he’d take a nonpartisan approach to hires on a state level.
“It’s immaterial to me,” Abercrombie said. “We want the best possible people to do the best possible job. we mean that sincerely.”
Rep. Blake Oshiro earlier today told Civil Beat he’s cautiously optimistic about the future of civil unions with Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie taking office.
When asked whether he was hopeful, too, Abercrombie smiled.
“Where marriage or any kind of union between adults is concerned, I’m always filled with what Bob Dylan said about Columbus when he sailed into America, ‘Good luck!'”
The governor-elect said throughout his campaign that he would not have vetoed the civil unions legislation that outgoing Gov. Linga Lingle killed last June.
The independent financial analysis that outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle is conducting to examine Honolulu’s $5.5 billion rail project won’t be a factor in Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie’s actions related to the project, he said.
“If the EIS is done correctly, it’s the obligation of the executive to sign it,” Abercrombie said. “Whether I think it’s a good idea to move it forward or not is not the issue.”
The governor-elect said it’s up to the mayor, the Honolulu City Council and the Federal Transit Administration to be sure the project moves forward in the right way. He also emphasized his decades-long support for improved mass transit on Oahu.
“I have always supported rail, mass transit, in one form or another for 40 years,” Abercrombie said. “I have been through virtually every manifestation of transit. Elevated, at-grade, rubber wheel, maglev, you name it. And I’ve been through it when I actually got funding for it from the Congress and it was turned down by the council. So I’ve long since given up on the idea of pronouncements from anybody on what’s gonna happen or not happen with it.”
Abercrombie said he won’t wait for Lingle’s financial analysis to be complete before he makes a decision on how to move forward.
“Unless there’s something about the EIS process I’m not aware of, whether or not I like the financial analysis is not part of it,” Abercrombie said. “Any documents that I’m required to deal with as governor that fulfill the law will be moved forward. Whether or not that results in rail transit or any other kind of transit moving forward, I don’t know.”
In his first press conference since election night, Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie said he’s working quickly to make key hires in his Cabinet and in the executive branch. He said he’s grateful to the Lingle administration for providing him transitional space, where his team can meet with the public and accept job applications from those who don’t want to submit them online.
“I’m very very grateful to Gov. Lingle,” Abercrombie said. “The folks in her administration have been very, very helpful to us, and as a result I think we can move forward expeditiously on the question of transition.”
The governor-elect takes the podium by joking to the press: “All rise!” Nobody stands up.
The Abercrombie/Schatz transition website is live, with a few kinks yet to work out. Abercrombie’s press team released a statement saying Abercrombie will select Cabinet members and fill other positions in the executive branch during the transition before he takes office December 6.
Abercrombie will begin reviewing applications on Nov. 15.
In the minutes leading up to his press conference, Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie’s new website is still password protected. But staffers say it should be live any moment. It’s part of Abercrombie’s transitional plan.
“The website is a critical avenue for members of the public to learn more about Abercrombie’s plans and to submit input and advice,” Abercrombie’s team wrote in a prepared statement.
The news conference is expected to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Governor-elect Abercrombie is prepping for his first press conference since election night. He’ll announce details about his new website from his campaign-headquarters-turned-transition-workspace in less than an hour.
Prefer to work in the House? See if you’re qualified for any of these temporary positions:
New Senators and House members are spending the afternoon in a new-employee orientation.
“It’s all the new senators and House members,” said newly elected Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D-District 22), who’s beginning to move into former District 22 Sen. Bobby Bunda’s old office. “Just getting briefed about the Legislature, you know, retirement, sexual harassment, the job.”
Dela Cruz said new legislators haven’t yet heard from outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle or Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie about the coming weeks. Just two days after the election, it’s still early.
Team Abercrombie is still working to roll out its new website, so that it can begin to accept job applications. While work continues on that front, the governor-elect has spent much of today on the phone. When he’s not answering “congratulations” calls, Abercrombie is dialing out to say thanks to many of his supporters, spokeswoman Laurie Au said.
Turns out it’s not just Civil Beat that’s being left in the waiting room on the finer points of Gov. Linda Lingle‘s final weeks in office. We ran into Rep. Denny Coffman (D-District 6) on the fourth floor, and he said the Legislature hasn’t heard a thing from the outgoing governor.
“The transition is going—” Coffman said with a smile. “Well, it’s just beginning!”
Newly elected legislators are prepping for their new jobs with a legislative orientation this afternoon. More on that from those who participated when they’re pau.
Sure, it’s only November, but the new Legislative session will be upon us in a blink. The possible legalization of civil unions is one of the issues everybody’s watching, especially now that Hawaii voters elected a governor who said he wouldn’t have vetoed the civil unions legislation that the Legislative branch passed in 2010. House Bill 444 — popularly known as “the civil unions bill” — was one of 32 bills outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed last June.
Rep. Blake Oshiro authored that bill, and held onto his seat in the House after challenges from former City Councilman Gary Okino — a vocal opponent of gay rights — in the primary election, and Sam Kong in the general election. Kong called civil unions a “slippery slope” on his campaign website.
“I will be introducing civil unions legislation again,” Oshiro told Civil Beat Thursday afternoon. “I will be talking to all of my colleagues to see what level of support they have, and whether they are interested in co-introducing it.”
Oshiro said there will be some minor “technical” changes to the new legislation, as compared to last year’s House Bill 444. He said the new gubernatorial leadership makes him hopeful, but cautiously so.
“It looks optimistic but it’s really too early to make any real accurate predictions about the viability of getting it passed,” Oshiro said. “There are a lot of different things between the introduction and the final vote.”
But what happens with civil unions will depend largely on who is named judiciary chair. It’s up to the House Judiciary Committee to pass the legislation before it reached House and Senate votes.
“Right now, everything’s up in the air on both sides,” Oshiro said. “I don’t think there’s any strong indications as to who will be judiciary because there’s attempts for changes happen at the top, and everything else trickles down.”
Oshiro said he’s received countless voicemails, texts and e-mails from supporters congratulating him on the win. But he’s also had to reassure constituents that he’ll focus on issues beyond civil unions.
“I try to assure them this is just one of many, many, many things,” Oshiro said. “This issue just stirs a little bit more emotion and engagement than when we talk about something like unemployment insurance.”
The “Senate President” nameplate is still on Congresswoman-elect Colleen Hanabusa’s office door. Her likely successor, Sen. Russell Kokubun, is out of the office and “booked all day,” one of his aides told Civil Beat. Another legislative aide at the capitol says the buzz about Kokubun taking Hanabusa’s former leadership post is “what everyone’s saying” at the capitol.
Outgoing Gov. Linda Lingle has been pretty quiet lately. She helped phone-bank at GOP headquarters on election night, but canceled a scheduled interview with Civil Beat. She spoke briefly to TV reporters after the election results were announced Tuesday night, then slipped through a side door to exit the Dole Cannery ballroom.
Today, Lingle spokesman Russell Pang didn’t come out of his office when Civil Beat stopped by to ask some questions about the transition. We offered to wait in the governor’s lobby. “There are other ways for him to leave,” cautioned an administrative assistant. “He’ll probably just go out a side door.”
Civil Beat stopped by Neil Abercrombie‘s headquarters, where staffers are figuring out the governor-elect’s schedule for the day. For now, Abercrombie’s campaign space is serving as his transitional workspace, too. It’s likely the governor-elect will later today make some public comments about the transition.
The biggest news so far: Today’s the day Abercrombie will begin accepting résumés from potential employees. Even current staffers are asked to reapply. Keep checking Abercrombie’s campaign website for details on how to apply online.
To catch up on Gov Watch from the beginning, start with our November 3 coverage.