Just two weeks after a soft launch, the Abercrombie for Governor campaign made things official.

Joined by Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and dozens of friends and supporters at Ward Warehouse Monday, Neil Abercrombie formally kicked off his 2014 re-election.

The governor’s campaign selling points are these: that he made “tough choices” when it came to righting the state’s economy, that public confidence in government has been restored and that his administration has established a “solid foundation” for the future led by a new generation of leaders.

“Let’s move forward,” the governor said.

Imua Abercrombie.

Leading The News

By making his announcement early in the week, Abercrombie is dominating the headlines (or at least sharing them with the Sandy Beach abandoned baby story). It comes three days ahead of the expected formal announcement that U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will run for the U.S. Senate against Abercrombie appointee and former lieutenant governor Brian Schatz.

The governor’s 1:30 p.m. launch also came two hours before the administration held a press conference regarding the bargaining agreement with the United Public Workers. Caldwell and the mayors of Maui and Kauai were on hand for that event, another deal reached with a public sector labor union that follows similar agreements over the past few weeks with the Hawaii State Teachers Association and units of the Hawaii Government Employees Association.

Message: governor patches things up with unions!

Abercrombie also managed to squeeze his news in between news from the Legislature, which finished conference committees on Friday and wraps up its final votes Tuesday and Thursday.

This session, lawmakers have rejected his call to raise the minimum wage and have taken a different path on another gubernatorial priority, funding early childhood education. But the governor will see his goal furthered of upgrading state government’s information technology system, paying down $16 billion-and-growing in unfunded liabilities and replenishing hurricane and budget reserve funds.

There might even be a little development of some public school lands. And Abercrombie has repealed the Public Land Development Corporation, even though he was for the PLDC before he was against it.

Today’s re-election start seems early, given that Abercrombie at present faces (since Hanabusa’s going after Schatz) no opponent in either the Democratic primary or a credible (at this point) Republican candidate in the general.

Message: potential opponents beware!

Abercrombie also scored a nice coup in having Caldwell on hand to praise the close working relationship between the leader of Oahu and the leader of the state — something not often the case in previous city-state administrations.

“The governor and I meet almost every week,” said Caldwell, who joked that he had no intention of running for governor (for now), unlike previous mayors. “We have found common ground on many issues.”

And then there are the dollar signs that should look impressive in campaign advertisements:

• From a $200 million deficit in 2010 to a $300 million positive balance in 2013
• $800 million in government bonds sold at historic low interest rates
• $960 million in capital improvement projects across the state

Did we mention the signing of civil unions into law? The settlement with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over long-past-due ceded-land revenue?

Message: He’s got a record!

In actual delivery, the governor’s speech was delivered somewhat by rote. He “read” more than he “talked.” At one point he took a long pause, as if he lost his place in his text or had become tired of it.

That’s when Abercrombie looked up and saw Fujio “Fudge” Matsuda in the audience, the former state transportation director and University of Hawaii president. The governor smiled and singled out his old friend and mentor from the podium, and proceeded to wax wistfully down memory lane.

It was an unscripted, and real, moment; it illustrated what people like most about Neil Abercrombie: his heart.

The governor is not a popular leader. His record is mixed; there have been notable disappointments, and his New Day plan is far from actualization. He may yet pull a serious opponent.

But Neil Abercrombie is moving forward.

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