Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has been largely out of the public eye ever since his historic loss in the August primary, but his appearance at an advocacy event for affordable housing earlier this week showed the lame duck governor hasn’t lost his passion.

Abercrombie was noticeably absent from TV news during the most recent hurricane, and is similarly invisible this week despite lava bearing down on the Big Island town of Pahoa. Perhaps he is staying out of the limelight so as not to jeopardize the chances of Democratic nominee state Sen. David Ige, whom Republicans have aggressively sought to tie to Abercrombie.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie interview

Gov. Neil Abercrombie during an interview with Civil Beat, May 28, 2014.

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

But Abercrombie did make time to speak at a fundraising event for EAH Housing at the Waialae Country Club. The event raised $180,000 for the nonprofit that develops low-income rental housing such as the Villages of Moae Ku in Ewa Beach.

The governor was at times jovial, joking that the one thing he’s learned in his 44 years of public service is that he’s “podium-challenged.” He was nostalgic, reminiscing of his days as an activist in California in the 1960s.

Overall, he was forceful, hitting the podium and pointing at the audience, speaking with the intensity and urgency that originally helped catapult him into office.

The governor’s record on affordable housing is debatable. His administration has subsidized the production of more than 6,000 housing units, but his policies on development in Kakaako have created little housing for low-income residents in the fast-growing urban district.

But on Monday evening, Abercrombie gave a fervent call to action that stood out among the evening’s speeches, even those by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

“There is nothing more pressing this evening, here in Hawaii, than providing more than shelter, providing a home,” Abercrombie said.

Later, he continued: “The commitment you’re making in this area is as fundamental to our decision about what kind of human beings we’re going to be as anything you’re going to do in your life.”

Listen to part of his talk here:

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