Incumbent Governor Neil Abercrombie conceded defeat on Saturday as Hawaii voters overwhelmingly backed his challenger in the state’s Democratic primary, even as local authorities and residents cleaned up debris from a tropical storm and tried to prepare for a supposed approaching hurricane.
With two-thirds of the votes counted, Abercrombie trailed his opponent, state Senator David Ige, by 66.5 percent to 30.5 percent.
Appearing before supporters to make his concession speech, the governor recalled his decades of public service.
“For 40 years going back to 1974 … every waking breath that I’ve taken, every thought I had before I slept, was for Hawaii,” Abercrombie said.
The loss by Abercrombie, who was endorsed by Hawaii-born President Barack Obama, marked the first defeat for an incumbent Democratic governor in Hawaii since it was granted statehood in 1959, potentially re-arranging the political landscape before the U.S. general election in November.
Ige had surged to a double-digit lead in polls even though Abercrombie raised far more money and could point to a thriving state economy.
Abercrombie took a break from campaigning this week to deal with the approach of Iselle.
“The governor got a lot of free airtime,” Blair said. “He was in his commander-in-chief role, very much leading the state’s response.”
Iselle weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm before it struck the Big Island on Thursday and later lost more force as it pushed past Hawaii.