Hannemann, Abercrombie split Hawaii voters, yet both lead Aiona Lingle's job approval hits lowest level so far
66% of Hawaii residents favor recognition for Native Hawaiians
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer
Hawai'i voters are divided between former Congressman Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann in the Democratic primary for governor in September, but prefer either Democrat to Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, a Republican, in the November general election, a new Hawai'i Poll has found.
Abercrombie, who trails Hannemann in fundraising and influential endorsements, attracted 36 percent of likely primary voters.
Hannemann, who is expected to officially declare his candidacy this month, is at 32 percent.
Twenty-one percent are undecided, while 11 percent said they intend to vote in the Republican primary.
Both Democrats hold solid advantages over Aiona in hypothetical match-ups in November. Abercrombie leads Aiona 49 percent to 35 percent, with 16 percent undecided. Hannemann leads Aiona 48 percent to 35 percent, with 17 percent undecided.
The poll was taken by Ward Research for The Advertiser and Hawai'i News Now among 604 likely voters statewide. The margin of error was 4 percentage points. Interviews were conducted between April 23 and April 28.
The results are encouraging for Abercrombie, who resigned from Congress in February to concentrate on his campaign. Behind in fundraising and in key endorsements from business and labor, he has portrayed himself as an insurgent against the establishment.
Abercrombie scores better than Hannemann among Democrats 45 percent to 34 percent and is splitting independents with the mayor.
Independents make up the largest segment of voters 34 percent who say they are undecided.
"It's the classic dilemma for independents," Rebecca Ward, the president of Ward Research, said of the choice between two high-profile Democrats.
Abercrombie is also doing better than Hannemann among women 40 percent to 28 percent and union voters 40 percent to 30 percent. Other demographic groups are more closely divided between the two Democrats.
The poll results, however, also show promise for Hannemann. The mayor is within striking distance, even though Abercrombie announced more than a year ago and has been actively campaigning in the Islands for the past two months.
Hannemann could see a bump, however, when he formally launches his campaign later this month and when he uses his larger bankroll to finance campaign advertisements.
3 VOTERS, 3 VIEWS
Katie Beer, a videographer who lives on Kaua'i, is leaning toward Abercrombie because of his two decades of experience as a congressman. She said the governor needs to work with the state's congressional delegation and other officials in Washington, D.C., and communicate the state's needs.
Abercrombie, she said, has those relationships.
"I just think he's more experienced," she said.
Scott Takahashi, a ceramic-tile setter who lives in Pearlridge, hopes Hannemann will run.
"He's doing a good job for the city," he said. "He's doing rapid transit, which will bring us jobs."
Takahashi is concerned about teacher furloughs and the direction of public education. After eight years of Republican rule at Washington Place, he wants a Democrat back in charge.
"I think we need a change already," he said.
Ted Kanemori, a retired computer specialist who lives in Kāne'ohe, said he believes Abercrombie and Hannemann would be more likely to favor increased government spending to solve the state's problems.
Kanemori wants more fiscal conservatism and is leaning toward Aiona.
"I'd like to think that he has some of the conservative type of thinking that I'm looking for," he said.
Abercrombie said he represents change from "the politics-as-usual and the inside game and the whole thing." He said he believes Hannemann is hurting himself by maintaining what he described as "the fiction" that he is not a formal candidate.
"I'm clearly not the establishment candidate," he said. "I suppose it's a bit ironic after being in office all that time. But I think it's consistent with the image that I've had over the years."
Abercrombie also said he does not know how Hannemann will explain why he would leave as a mayor when the city has yet to break ground on its $5.3 billion rail project.
"We don't even have an EIS (environmental impact statement)," he said. "I don't know how he's going to do this. Part of the reason, I think, he hasn't announced yet is he can't figure out how to do it. How do you finesse that elephant?"
Hannemann said he was grateful for the support the poll showed, given that he is still a full-time mayor.
Hannemann said voters should judge Abercrombie for resigning early, after saying last year that he would not, and for the political chain-reaction it has created to fill out the remaining months in his term in urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District.
Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, is leading former Congressman Ed Case and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who are splitting the Democratic vote in the special election, the Hawai'i Poll found.
"He's left business undone in Congress. He cost the taxpayers nearly a million dollars for this special election. And now a safe Democratic seat is in jeopardy," Hannemann said.
AIONA TO HOLD FIRE
Aiona said he will not likely engage the Democrats much until after the primary. Instead, he said, he will continue to build his grassroots' network, develop his platform and raise money.
The lieutenant governor has been visiting with small-business owners part of his "100 small businesses in 100 days" campaign and plans to outline his goals on education soon.
"Whether I was up or down in the polls you'd get the same response from me. The only poll that matters is the one at the end," he said.
Aiona said he will stress the value of political balance in a traditionally Democratic state, his fiscal conservatism, his focus on family and his previous experience as a judge.
"I think I represent what the people of Hawai'i want," he said.
All three candidates downplayed the impact of civil unions on their campaigns. Gov. Linda Lingle has until July 6 to decide whether to sign, veto or let the bill become law without her signature.
Voter reaction to the outcome could influence the primary and general election, particularly if one side in the debate is angry and motivated to cast their votes largely on how candidates stand on civil unions.
Abercrombie, who is in favor of civil unions, and Aiona, who is opposed, are critical of Hannemann for remaining neutral since the state House voted to pass the bill last week.
"People want to believe that they're not being maneuvered and manipulated, that they're not being hustled," Abercrombie said.
Aiona said Hannemann is acting like a professional politician.
"People know where I stand on this. My position will not change," he said.
Hannemann said his two rivals have taken extreme positions: Abercrombie on the left, Aiona on the right. The mayor said he believes in traditional marriage but is open to some type of recognition for same-sex couples.
He would not say whether he would sign or veto the civil-unions bill if he were governor.
"My position has been consistent," Hannemann said. "I'm against same-sex marriage. But I'm open to partnerships."