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 and shook hands. Orchids adorned the tables where a huge feast was laid out, compliments of volunteers.
Even as the governor was conceding, Ige was speaking to his supporters. He cautioned that there are still more numbers to come in but added that “we have a lot to be proud of.”
“When we started this 13 months ago, I probably had more people tell me that I was crazy for really believing that this could happen,” he said. “But it really has been heartwarming for me.”
Later, after Abercrombie and his wife joined Ige and his wife, Dawn, at Ige’s headquarters in a show of unity, the Democratic party nominee said he felt there was no particular issue that helped him defeat the incumbent so resoundingly.
But, about two months ago, he said he noticed a decisive shift in turnout at campaign appearances.
“Clearly, the events were getting bigger,” he told reporters. “We could see a lot more traction. People were joining the campaign. Governors Ariyoshi and (Ben Cayetano) had traveled with us to neighbor island fundraisers. And we could see the traction that they were attracting in the campaign.”
“You know, I’m an engineer, so I like to underestimate and over-deliver.” — Sen. David Ige
Asked about the huge margin of his victory, “You know, I’m an engineer, so I like to underestimate and over-deliver.”
Ige added that he and his wife had made predictions on the outcome: “The over and under was 20 percent, and I won.”
Ige supporter John Kato said he was not shocked that his preferred candidate had won.
“It’s not surprising that AP called it,” he said. “I knew he was going to win by the April poll. I knew (Abercrombie) was in trouble because people weren’t forgetting that pension issue. Neil as a politician hasn’t been as effective as he should be.”
Kato was referring to the governor’s call to tax the pensions of senior citizens, a proposal soundly rejected by the Hawaii Legislature in 2011.
And former Gov. George Ariyoshi, who endorsed Ige early, said, “He will make a great governor. I’m 88 years old. This is my future, it’s your future — that’s what this campaign is all about. Hawaii is going to be a better place.”
Duke Aiona won the Republican primary, with the vast majority of votes going to him.
A Hawaii governor has not lost a re-election bid since 1962 — and that was in a general election, not a Democratic primary in the bluest state in the nation.
Abercrombie, first elected to public office in 1974, has served as a state senator and representative, as a Honolulu City Council member and, from 1991 until 2010, in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He also won a special election in 1986 to serve out the remainder of Congressman Cec Heftel’s term, until early 1987.
Abercrombie is practically a household name and outraised and outspent Ige by a 10-to-1 margin.
Ige, an engineer by profession who has been in the Hawaii Legislature for nearly 30 years, is not well known outside of his Pearl City-Aiea district on Oahu.
But, through his position as chairman of the Senate Ways and Means committee and a concerted grassroots campaign across the island chain, Ige’s name recognition and favorability ratings improved.
According to a recent Civil Beat Poll, Ige’s positive rating among likely Democratic primary voters was 59 percent compared with the governor’s 43 percent.
That helped explain why Ige led Abercrombie 51-41 percent in the July poll, essentially the same margin as in a June poll. (The Abercrombie campaign said its internal polls showed the race tied as recently as Monday.)
“He will make a great governor. … Hawaii is going to be a better place.” — George Ariyoshi
Despite the polls, the Ige win is shocking. Hawaii’s economy is healthy and growing, unemployment is low, tourism is steady and the state budget is fiscally sound.
Abercrombie has been the stronger presence in debates, and he is endorsed by no less than President Barack Obama, who has recorded political ads for the governor.
And yet, voters seemed reluctant to give the man who presided over the state for the past four years much credit.
Even the nearly constant media appearances of the governor performing his duties as Tropical Storm Iselle crossed through the islands Thursday and Friday apparently did little to boost his popularity.
Meantime, colleagues describe Ige as open, fair and honest in his approach to legislating but also a person who holds firm to his positions once he has thought issues through.
Ige’s main complaint with Abercrombie was that people have lost faith in the governor’s leadership.
One other Democrat in the race, Van “Tanaban” Tanabe, trailed Ige and Abercrombie by a large margin.
Meantime, Hawaii Independent Party candidate Mufi Hannemann is poised to advance to the general election.
The former Honolulu mayor was unopposed in the primary.
If the results hold, Aiona, Hanneman and Ige will be in a three-way general election race.
Libertarian candidate Jeff Davis also advances to the general.
— HuffPost Hawaii Associate Editor James Cave contributed to this report.
For complete election results, visit the Hawaii State Elections Office.