Sunday, August 3, 2014

Could Hawaii return to a Republican governor?

There's blood in the water as Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie struggles to stay afloat despite a persistent -- and polls say successful -- attack by state Sen. David Ige, an Oahu Democrat who chaired the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Republicans on the national level are taking advantage of the intraparty blood-letting to bolster the chances of GOP candidate James "Duke" Aiona. Aiona, you'll recall, was lieutenant governor under former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Maui Republican who served two terms ending in 2010.

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Abercrombie
"Thanks to a divisive Democratic gubernatorial primary in Hawaii, the party committee thinks that seat may now be in play," noted CNN pundits in a July blog post, adding that the Republican National Committee has sent additional staff to Hawaii, hoping to put this blue state into play in the midterm elections.

The RNC might not be that far off base. The latest poll, released by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser today, shows Aiona's favorability at 63 percent, the highest of any candidate tested in the poll, up from 58 percent in February. Fifty-one percent of traditional Democrats view him positively.

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Ige
The poll found Ige holding a 54 percent to 36 percent lead over Abercrombie with 11 percent undecided. Independent candidate Mufi Hannemann, who lost to Abercrombie in the 2010 primary, had a 39 percent favorability rating.

"No governor has lost re-election since William Quinn, a Republican, in 1962, so Ige could be on the cusp of a historic upset on Saturday," the Star-Advertiser said.

The Hawaii Poll, conducted by Ward Research Inc., for the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now, follows a Civil Beat poll last week with similar results.

Civil Beat found 51 percent of those who said they will vote in the Democratic primary said they would vote for Ige, compared with 41 percent for Abercrombie. Just 8 percent said they are undecided.

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Aiona
Intraparty squabbles certainly aren't new in a state that is so overwhelmingly Democratic -- the 25-member state Senate has one Republican, and the 51-member House has seven.

Party leaders traditionally push for unity at a huge Hilo rally the night before the primary, and work toward reconciliation at a breakfast the day after.

They'll certainly have their work cut out for them this year, and it will be interesting to see -- no matter who emerges victor -- how quickly the wounds can be salved during the long swim to the Nov. 4 general election.