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Neil Abercrombie wins Democratic gubernatorial nod in Hawaii

Updated: 8:57 a.m.

By Felicia Sonmez

Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie on Sunday clinched the Democratic nomination in the race to succeed term-limited Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle (R), winning a hard-fought victory over former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann on the final primary day of the 2010 cycle.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Abercrombie led Hannemann 60 percent to 38 percent. Three other opponents combined to take the remaining two percent of the vote.

Abercrombie will go on to face Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona, who cruised to victory over nominal opposition in the Republican primary.

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said that Abercrombie "will change the direction of Hawaii, moving away from the failed economic and social policies of the status quo."

The Republican Governors Association issued a statement congratulating Aiona and hailing him as "an independent leader who has a plan to bring clean energy, jobs and a world-class education system to the state."

Abercrombie is a heavy favorite in the fall, although the RGA believes it has a good chance of holding the seat and has gone up with TV ads backing Aiona.

Abercrombie's victory capped off a contentious campaign that at times touched on issues of ethnic and national identity, particularly after a mailer Hannemann's camp sent out to voters last month.

The mailer -- which pointed out that Hannemann was born in Honolulu while Abercrombie was born in New York and that Hannemann's wife is Japanese while Abercrombie's is not -- drew a strong rebuke from Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who has formally remained neutral in the race.

The long-standing political rivalry between Abercrombie and Hannemann also played into the campaign. Abercrombie lost to Hannemann in the 1986 Democratic primary to serve out the remainder of the term of Rep. Cecil Heftel (D), who had resigned to run for governor. Republican Pat Saiki went on to win the seat.

Meanwhile, there were few surprises in the other races of the night.

In the 1st district race to succeed Abercrombie, Rep. Charles Djou (R) and state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D) clinched their respective party nods as expected, besting minor opponents.

Most handicappers consider the Djou-Hanabusa race a toss-up, but Hanabusa's fundraising prowess (she outraised Djou in the most recent reporting period) and the district's Democratic tilt work in her favor (Djou won the seat in a May special election in which Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case (D) split the Democratic vote).

In the Democratic Senate primary, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) bested scuba instructor Andrew Woerner. The eight-term senator is expected to cruise over 2004 Republican nominee Cam Cavasso and three third-party candidates in November.

And in the 2nd district, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D), who faced no primary opposition, will face either Ramsay Wharton (R) or John Willoughby (R), who remained separated by about two hundred votes as of Sunday morning.

By Felicia Sonmez  | September 19, 2010; 8:57 AM ET
Categories:  Governors  
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