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Gov. Neil Abercrombie will have to fight to keep his seat in the next year’s election.
Sen. David Ige, a Democrat and 30-year veteran of the legislature, wants the job and says the people of Hawaii want change.
The announcement comes as a surprise to some of his colleagues at the capitol, but it starts the ball rolling on what could be many more candidates tossing their hat into the ring.
Sen. Ige left the confines of the state capitol for the comfort of his home on Tuesday to make the big announcement that he is running for the state’s top job and going head-to-head with Gov. Abercrombie in 2014.
“The thing that sets us apart is really our approach to dealing with issues. I believe in reaching out to the community and the stakeholders involved,” Sen. Ige said.
“I was surprised when I heard the announcement, however, Sen. Ige has almost three decades of public service to the state, so he will certainly be a formative challenger,” said Sen. Will Espero (D) Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point.
Political analysts say it’s a sign that the political scene has changed.
“What we are seeing is that in a post-Inouye world the rules are very different now. Democrats feel able to challenge each other in primaries. Before there was a pecking order,” Hawaii Pacific University Communications Chair and political analyst Dr. John Hart said.
It will be an uphill battle for Sen. Ige. He has $75,000 in his campaign fund against Gov. Abercrombie’s far larger purse.
“I’m committed to working hard, but I also have faith and trust in the voters of Hawaii that they can’t be bought,” Sen. Ige said.
Gov. Abercrombie’s campaign manager says, “…Elections are all about choices. That is the Democratic process.”
Dante Carpenter, chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, says, “I wish him [Ige] well and that he and the governor will keep it positive moving forward. May the best man win.”
“It’s good for the people of Hawaii to have a choice on that side. We on the Republican Party are still looking at a couple key people who have not said yes or no,” Republican Party of Hawaii Chair David Chang said.
Chang says one of those key people is former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona.
“We are hearing rumors that Lt. Gov. Tsutsui will even see a challenger. It will be interesting to see the next several months,” Chang said.
Sen. Espero says he is also eyeing a seat in Washington, D.C. and plans to make an announcement later this month.
Related story: Sen. David Ige enters race for governor