Maui teachers with Ige signs.
Maui teachers.


See more election night pictures below.



By Derrick DePledge & B.J. Reyes

Courtesy HSTA Hilo Chapter members, August 9, 2014

In a historic upset, state Sen. David Ige, who was unknown to many voters six months ago, ousted Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Saturday in the Democratic primary.

Ige, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, was drubbing Abercrombie by an insurmountable triple digits, an unprecedented repudiation of an incumbent governor in Hawaii.

Wil Okabe speaking at Ige Headquarters on Primary Election Night.
HSTA President Wil Okabe was invited to speak at Ige Headquarters in Honolulu on Primary Election night.  He shared why teachers supported David Ige and how the values of respect and trust were motivating factors for 13,500 teachers, their friends, and families.

The governor conceded at his Ward Warehouse campaign headquarters at 9:20 p.m.

Abercrombie is the first governor since William Quinn, a Republican, to lose re-election in Hawaii since 1962 and the only governor to fall in a primary.

Ige will face Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona, a Republican, and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann, of the Hawaii Independent Party, in the November general election.

“Ige! Ige! Ige!,” the state senator’s supporters shouted at Ige’s campaign headquarters in Moiliili when the initial returns were released.

“You can’t make up that kind of margin,” said former Gov. Ben Cayetano, a longtime Abercrombie ally who endorsed Ige. “It’s never been done.”

Cayetano said that “Neil has probably disappointed most of his base, and I just think it’s going to carry on. So I think that it’s all over for (Abercrombie). David is making history tonight.”

Abercrombie, who outspent Ige 10 to 1 and was endorsed by Hawaii-born President Barack Obama and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, had trailed in public opinion polls before the primary and had poor job approval ratings for the past three years. But an Abercrombie loss is startling given the state’s economic rebound during his four-year term and recent policy victories on the minimum wage, land conservation at Turtle Bay Resort and marriage equality.

Betty Sakihara, a retired school administrative services assistant who lives in Aina Haina, said she likes Ige’s experience. She was already looking at perhaps not voting for Abercrombie, but was influenced further by the governor’s decision in July to withdraw from three of four debates with Ige scheduled with AARP Hawaii.

Sakihara, whose son is a public-school teacher, was also motivated by Abercrombie’s clashes with teachers early in his term. “Overall, I’m thinking to myself, give David Ige a chance,” she said.

Beatrice Lemke-Newman, a retired saleswoman who lives in Kapaa on Kauai, said her vote for Ige was influenced by her niece, an elementary school teacher. Like many voters, she did not know very much about the state senator at the start of the campaign. “From watching his interviews and how he handled himself during the debates, I felt more favorably towards him.”

Lemke-Newman said she has known of Abercrombie since she was a student at the University of Hawaii in the early 1970s. “To tell you the truth, I’ve never cared for Abercrombie from the start,” she said.

Other voters were willing to give Abercrombie a second chance.

“I just figured he probably got a lot of things started, so I wanted to give him an opportunity to continue what he had started,” said Taryn Lau, a social worker who lives in Makiki. “Keep the momentum going.”

Abercrombie, 76, raised more than $5 million and spent most of the money on advertising, polling, consultants and outreach before Election Day.

Ige, 57, raised about $549,750 and only had enough money to run low-budget TV ads during the final weeks before the vote. In February, the Hawaii Poll showed that 61 percent of voters had not heard of or did not know enough about the state senator to form an opinion. A grassroots campaign helped improve Ige’s name recognition, but the Hawaii Poll found in late July that 28 percent of voters still were unfamiliar with him.

The Hawaii State Teachers Association, which endorsed Ige after souring on Abercrombie over a contract fight early in the governor’s term, spent about $148,580 through late July on TV ads critical of the governor.

The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, which endorsed Abercrombie, spent about $112,090 on radio, TV and mailers on behalf of the governor.


Staff writers William Cole and Gary Kubota contributed to this report.


Hilo chapter members with Lorraine Rodero Inouye on Primary Election night, August 9, 2014.
HSTA with Richard Onishi August 9 2014
Hilo Chapter members with State Representative Richard Onishi.  House District 3:  Hilo, Keaau, Kurtistown, Volcano.

Hilo Chapter members stopped by to talk story with the State Senator from District One, Gil Kahele.  August 9, 2014

Hilo Chapter members dropped by the Hanabusa headquarters on Primary Election night, August 9, 2014.