Neil Abercrombie

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Neil Abercrombie
Neil Abercrombie 2013.jpeg
Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 6, 2010 - Present
Term ends
December 1, 2014
Years in position 5
PredecessorLinda Lingle (R)
Base salary$117,312
Elections and appointments
First electedNovember 2, 2010
Next generalNovember 4, 2014
Campaign $$6,494,367
Term limits2 consecutive terms
Prior offices
Hawaii House of Representatives
1975 - 1979
Hawaii State Senate
1980 - 1986
U.S. House of Representatives
1986 - 1987, 1991 - 2010
High schoolWilliamsville High School
Bachelor'sUnion College (1959)
Ph.D.University of Hawaii-Manoa (1974)
Date of birthJune 26, 1938
Place of birthBuffalo, New York
Office website
Personal website
Campaign website
Neil Abercrombie (born June 26, 1938, in Buffalo, New York) is the 7th and current Democratic Governor of Hawaii. He was first elected in 2010. He defeated Mufi Hannemann in the September 18, 2010 Democratic primary and went on to win the general election alongside lieutenant gubernatorial running-mate Brian Schatz - now a U.S. Senator - in the general election on November 2, 2010. Abercrombie was sworn into office on December 6, 2010.

Before becoming governor, Abercrombie represented Hawaii's 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1991 to 2010. He resigned his seat in order to focus on his gubernatorial campaign and was succeeded in Congress by Charles Djou, the first Republican elected to Congress from Hawaii since Pat Saiki. Prior to his congressional service, Abercrombie was a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979 and the Hawaii Senate from 1979 to 1986. He also served on the Honolulu City Council from 1988-1990.

Abercrombie will first come up for re-election in 2014 and he ran for re-election. He sought the Democratic nomination in the primary on August 9, 2014. So far, he's drawn one primary challenger, David Ige.[1] The general election took place November 4, 2014.

After Abercrombie picked Schatz, his lieutenant governor, over Democratic U.S. House Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat left by Senator Daniel Inouye's death in December 2012, Hanabusa, whom Inouye had explicitly requested to take over for him, considered mounting a challenge to Abercrombie in his bid for re-election in 2014.[2][3] [4][5][6] Although Hananbusa ultimately decided to run for Senate instead, the episode remains a notable fixture of Abercrombie's first term.


Abercrombie was born in Buffalo, New York, to Vera June and Donald Abercrombie.[7] Upon graduating from Williamsville High School (now Williamsville South High School), he went on to pursue studies in sociology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. There, Abercrombie obtained his bachelor's degree in 1959. He moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, and studied at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa where he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in American Studies in 1974. There he attended classes with and befriended current United States President Barack Obama's parents, Ann Dunham and Barack Obama, Sr.[8] As a result, Abercrombie was the only member of Congress to have met Barack Obama's parents while they lived in Hawaii.


  • Williamsville High School
  • Bachelor's degree in Sociology - Union College (1959)
  • Ph.D in American Studies - University of Hawaii at Manoa (1974)

Political career

Governor of Hawaii (2010-Present)

Abercrombie was first elected Governor of Hawaii in November of 2010 and assumed office on December 6, 2010.


2014 State of the State address

In January 2014, Abercrombie gave his fourth State of the State address. Abercrombie stated that Hawaii was turning around the budget, which produced a general fund balance of $844 million in fiscal year 2013.[9] “We are stabilizing future costs and expenditures. We are concluding collective bargaining agreements, several of which are for multiple years,” he said in the address. We have taken affirmative action in addressing our state’s unfunded liabilities – for medical benefits for retirees – and pensions, salvaging both from fiscal disaster.” Abercrombie also promoted lower taxes for Hawaii senior citizens as well as supplemental budget measures that did not rely on increases in taxes or fees. “I propose to exempt any presently taxed income from all sources for taxpayers age 65 and older with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $25,000, AGI of $35,000 for heads of households, or AGI of $45,000 for joint filing. This assures these seniors will not have their retirement income taxed. This will affect as many as 25,000 or more seniors throughout Hawaii,” Abercrombie said. “I propose to double the current refundable food (and) excise tax credit for taxpayers 65 years or older whose AGI is less than $50,000. This is a direct payment to the senior taxpayer. This will affect as many as 110,000 Hawaii seniors or more.”[9]

Job creation ranking

In a June 2013 analysis by The Business Journals, which ranked 45 of the country's 50 governors by their job creation records, Abercrombie was ranked number 19. The five governors omitted from the analysis all assumed office in 2013. The ranking was based on a comparison of the annual private sector growth rate in all 50 states using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[10][11]

Steven Tyler Act

On January 18, 2013, Jamie Kalani English introduced Senate Bill 465, the proposed "Steven Tyler Act." According the bill, "if [a] person captures or intends to capture, in a manner that is offensive to a reasonable person, through any means a visual image, sound recording, or other physical impression of another person while that person is engaging in a personal or familial activity with a reasonable expectation of privacy," he or she would be liable for the "civil action of constructive invasion of privacy." He or she could be sued for general damages, special damages, and punitive damages worth triple the combined general and special damages. According to Section 1 of the bill, the new law would especially help celebrities and be named after Steven Tyler, who owns a vacation home on the island of Maui, in honor of his "contribution to the arts in Hawai‘i and throughout the world."[12] The Senate passed the SB 465 on March 5 by a vote of 23-2, and the bill was sent on to the House. Only Senators Samuel Slom and Les Ihara, Jr. voted against the bill.[13] Abercrombie, the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Tyler, Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, and a number of other celebrities endorsed SB 465. They argued that the paparazzi invade the privacy of celebrities who come to Hawaii to vacation in peace by filming and photographing the celebrities on their private property and that this bill would help promote celebrity tourism in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union, Hawaii Attorney General David M. Louie, the Society of Professional Journalists, and The New York Times opposed the bill, claiming that it would be unconstitutional and suppress journalism.[14][15]

Congressional appointments

On December 26, 2012, Abercrombie appointed his lieutenant governor, Brian E. Schatz, to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy left by Daniel Inouye's death on December 17, 2012. The appointment was somewhat controversial as prior to his death Inouye asked Abercrombie to appoint U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) to his seat.

Following the appointment, Inouye's chief of staff Jennifer Sabas stated, "Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor's decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck."[16]

Per state law, the Hawaii Democratic Party sent Abercrombie a list of three potential replacements to chose from - Schatz, Hanabusa, and deputy state Land and Natural Resources Director Esther Kiaaina. Schatz was said to have received the most votes from the party's central committee.[17]

Judicial appointments

As governor, Abercrombie is responsible for appointing judges to the Hawaii Supreme Court, Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals, and the Hawaii Circuit Courts. (The Chief Justice appoints judges to the Hawaii District Courts. The governor makes a judicial appointment after candidates are recommended by a judicial nominating commission. The nominee must be confirmed by the Hawaii State Senate before she or he takes office. For an up-to-date list of all of Abercrombie's appointees, see Judgepedia's page on his appointments.

Marriage equality

On February 21, 2012, Abercrombie acknowledged that the state's marriage law "is unconstitutional because it denies same-sex couples the 'fundamental right' to marry," but noted that the state would continue to defend the statute in federal court.[18] The statement was in response to a federal lawsuit filed against the state Department of Health after a same-sex couple was denied a marriage license. A lawyer for the plaintiffs was encouraged by Abercrombie's stance on the issue. "It's an extremely significant political and moral development to have an important representative of the state, like the governor, stand up and speak his conscience," he said.[19]

U.S. Congress (1986-1987, 1990-2010)

At the end of his council tenure, Abercrombie once again ran for the U.S. House of Representatives representing Hawaii's 1st Congressional District. Winning election in 1990, he went on to be re-elected ten times. In the 2008 election, he won with 70.6% of the vote.

Abercrombie was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and compiled a generally liberal voting record. He supported and voted for the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. On October 10, 2002, he was among the 133 members of the House who voted against authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He cosponsored H.R. 1312 (Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005) on July 28, 2005. He took issue with the Vatican over not listing torture as a sin.[20]

According to Project Vote Smart, Abercrombie held the following issue positions while serving in Congress. He was pro-choice, and he voted against a ban on partial birth abortion. He voted with the interests of NARAL and Planned Parenthood 100% between 2000-2006. He voted for bills designed to make it easier for Americans to vote, such as the motor voter bill. He advocated strongly for civil liberties; his voting record was supported by both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and American Library Association. He also voted against a constitutional amendment to limit marriage to being between one man and one woman. Notably, he was one of only nine representatives not to cast a vote for or against the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. In 2005, he voted against the extension of the act, calling it “a blank check to trample civil liberties." In 2007, he signed on as a co-sponsor of United States National Healthcare Act (H.R. 676), which would have established a national health insurance program.[21] He resigned from Congress shortly before the vote on the 2010 health insurance reform bill.[22]


"Mainland" earmarks

For Fiscal Year 2009, the State of Hawaii was one of the top recipients of “mainland money” in the form of Congressional earmarks, receiving $210 dollars in “mainland money” per capita ($270,736,707 total). Maine, a comparable state in population, received only $55 per capita in earmarks.

Abercrombie sought 41 earmarks for a total of $165,034,800 in “mainland money.”[23]

Honolulu City Council (1988-1990)

Abercrombie won a seat on the Honolulu City Council and served from 1988 to 1990.

Hawaii State Senate (1980-1986)

Abercrombie moved from the State House to the Hawaii State Senate, where he served from 1980 to 1986. After Representative Cecil Heftel resigned from the United States Congress in July 1986 to run for Governor of Hawaiʻi, Abercrombie was elected to the House in a September 1986 special election to complete Heftel's unexpired term. However, Abercrombie lost the Democratic primary for a full two-year term to Mufi Hannemann, who went on to lose to Republican Pat Saiki in the general election.[24]

Hawaii House of Representatives (1975-1979)

Abercrombie was a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1975 to 1979.



See also: Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2014

Abercrombie ran for a second term as Governor of Hawaii in the 2014 elections.[1]


Abercrombie's 2014 re-election campaign has received the endorsement of President Barack Obama.[25]

Race background

Defeat for Abercrombie

Wavering approval numbers, key endorsement losses and the emergence of formidable challengers in both the primary and general election placed Abercrombie at the top of the list of most vulnerable seats in the 2014 gubernatorial election cycle. In the months leading up to the primary, inconsistent polling data and conflicting race projections thickened the air of uncertainty hanging over Abercrombie's re-election bid. Still, David Ige's upset by a 2-to-1 margin marked a stunning early elimination for the incumbent despite Abercrombie's 10-to-1 spending advantage.[26][1][27][28][29] The last time a sitting Hawaii Governor ran for re-election and failed was in 1962, when Republican William Francis Quinn, who, in addition to being Hawaii's first governor was also its first and only lame-duck governor, until Abercrombie. Quinn was unseated in the 1962 general election by Democratic challenger John Anthony Burns.[30]

In the aftermath of the primary, Abercrombie attributed his defeat to his decision to call a special session to legalize gay marriage in November 2013. According to Abercrombie, Republican opponents of gay marriage took advantage of the Democratic Party's open primary to vote en masse for Ige, who supported Abercrombie's push for the measure in the legislature. Abercrombie further argued that his absence in the general election paved the way for the Republicans to reclaim the governor's seat in the general election and ultimately block the measure's progress.[31]

Vulnerable seat

As far back as November 2013, several factors besides the gay marriage issue indicated Abercrombie could be at risk of losing re-election in 2014, beginning with long-time Hawaii lawmaker David Ige's entry into the Democratic primary race. Ige has been the state Sen. for District 16 since 1994 and currently serves as chair of the chamber's Ways and Means Committee. Abercrombie trailed Ige in each of the Democratic primary polls taken after the June 3 candidate filing deadline, including a Honolulu Civil Beat Poll of likely Democratic voters conducted by Merriman River Group about a week before the primary showing Ige leading 51 percent to 41 percent.[32][33] Despite having secured the endorsement of fellow Hawaii native President Barack Obama (D), more attention was paid to Ige's endorsements from ex-governors Ben Cayetano and George Ariyoshi. Both ex-governors are influential Hawaii Democrats who were previously considered close allies of Abercrombie.[34][35]

Controversy over U.S. Senate appointment

The notable defections of Cayetano and Ariyoshi may have stemmed from Abercrombie's controversial December 2012 decision to appoint then-Lieutenant Governor Brian E. Schatz (D) to fill the open U.S. Senate seat left by the death of veteran Senator Daniel Inouye (D). Abercrombie's decision to appoint Schatz meant defying Inouye's deathbed wish for the appointment of U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his replacement.[36][37] Abercrombie was required to appoint one of three individuals submitted by the state party of the incumbent, and Hanabusa—in addition to being Inouye's stated preference—had topped the list of early contenders, therefore the governor's call angered some members of the party.[38][39][40] After the Senate post was given to Schatz, Hanabusa threatened a challenge to Abercrombie in the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial primary nomination.[41] Although Hanabusa ultimately decided to pursue a full term in Inouye's seat in the 2014 election, a measure of residual ill-will toward Abercrombie may have existed among the state's Democratic elite and possibly affected his chances of winning a second term.

Aiona's second run for governor

If Abercrombie had survived Ige's primary challenge, another threat would have awaited him in the second phase of the election in the form of ex-Hawaii Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona. Aiona was the 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee and lost the office to Abercrombie four years ago. Aiona launched his second bid in early 2014 in hopes of staging a general election rematch with Abercrombie. Polls taken prior to Abercrombie's primary knockout reinforced expectations of a tight general election contest between the former foes.[32] On August 9, Aiona won the GOP nomination for the second consecutive cycle, earning 97 percent of the vote in a three-way race.[28]


See also: Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2010

On Sunday, March 9, 2009, Abercrombie announced his intention to again run for Governor of Hawaii instead of running for an 11th term in Congress.[42] On December 11, 2009 he announced that he would resign his U.S. House seat to concentrate on his gubernatorial bid. He was succeeded in Congress by Republican Charles Djou, the first Republican elected to Congress from Hawaii since Congresswoman Pat Saiki. On November 2, 2010, Neil Abercrombie and Brian Schatz won election as Governor and Lt. Governor of Hawaii. They defeated the Aiona/Finnegan (R), Cunningham/Spence (F) and Pollard/Kama (NP) ticket(s) in the general election.

Governor and Lt. Governor of Hawaii, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngNeil Abercrombie & Brian Schatz 58.2% 222,724
     Republican Duke Aiona & Lynn Finnegan 41.1% 157,311
     Free Energy Daniel Cunningham & Deborah Spence 0.3% 1,265
     Non-partisan Tom Pollard & Leonard Kama 0.3% 1,263
Total Votes 382,563
Election Results Via: Hawaii Office of Elections

Abercrombie defeated Mufi Hannemann in the September 18th Democratic primary.

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Abercrombie is available dating back to 2010. Based on available campaign finance records, Abercrombie raised a total of $6,494,367 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 9, 2013.[43]

Neil Abercrombie's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Governor of Hawaii Not up for election $2,055,368
2010 Governor of Hawaii Won $4,438,999
Grand Total Raised $6,494,367


Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Neil Abercrombie's donors each year.[44] Click [show] for more information.


In 1981, Abercrombie married Nancie Caraway,[45] who is a political scientist and feminist writer at the University of Hawaii-Manoa's Globalization Research Center.

Abercrombie is an avid weight-lifter and has a stated goal of lifting 200 lbs more than his age on each birthday. According to reports from his former colleagues in Congress, on Abercrombie's 67th birthday, he bench pressed 267 lbs.[46]

Recent news

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See also

External links

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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 KHON 2, " Gov. Abercrombie intends to run for re-election," April 29, 2013, accessed June 26, 2013
  2. The Hill, "Source: Hanabusa receiving 'a lot of pressure' to run against Abercrombie," December 27, 2012
  3. KHON2, "EXCLUSIVE: Hanabusa says 2014 run for governor, Senate, House all on table," January 14, 2013
  4. "Inouye gave preference for successor before he died," December 18, 2012
  5. CBS news, "Inouye replaceent to be named Wednesday," December 24, 2012
  6. Civil Beat, "Inouye's Last Wish Is Abercrombie's Biggest Burden," December 24, 2012
  7. Freepages, "Neil Abercrombie Genealogy"
  8. Time, "The Story of Barack Obama's Mother," April 9, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Minority leaders dispute governor’s claims that Hawaii is on solid financial ground," January 23, 2014
  10. The Business Journals, "Governors and jobs: How governors rank for job creation in their states," June 27, 2013
  11. The Business Journals, "How state governors rank on their job-growth record," June 27, 2013
  12. Hawaii State Legislature, "Senate Bill 465," accessed March 24, 2014
  13. Hawaii State Legislature, "Measure status for Senate Bill 465," accessed March 24, 2014
  14. Malia Mattoch McManus, Reuters, "Hawaii's Senate passes Steven Tyler Act celebrity privacy bill," accessed March 6, 2013
  15. The New York Times, "Bills of the Rich and Famous," February 11, 2013
  16. Star Advertiser, "Abercrombie picks Schatz to replace Inouye in U.S. Senate," December 26, 2012
  17. Hawaii News Now, "Dems choose Hanabusa, Kiaaina, Schatz as finalists for Inouye Senate seat," December 26, 2012
  18. Hawaii Star Advertiser, "Governor concedes marriage law's bias," February 22, 2012
  19. Hawaii News Now, "Governor, DOH have differing responses to same-sex lawsuit," February 22, 2012
  20. The Honolulu Advertiser, "Abercrombie seeks Vatican's view on torture," March 17, 2008
  21. Project Vote Smart, "Neil Abercrombie Voting Record," accessed August 23, 2010
  22. Project Vote Smart, "Neil Abercrombie"
  23. Hawaii Reporter, "The Hypocrisy of Putting Down ‘Mainland Money’ Flowing into Hawaii," October 31, 2010
  24. NPR, "Democrats Poised to Make Gubernatorial Gains," September 26, 2007, accessed August 23, 2010
  25. Hawaii News Now, "Obama endorses Gov. Abercrombie for re-election," December 20, 2013
  26. Cook Political Report, "2014 Governors Race Ratings," May 16, 2014
  27. Real Clear Politics, "2014 Governor Races, Ratings Map," accessed June 30, 2014
  28. 28.0 28.1 Hawaii Division of Elections, "Primary Election 2014 Results - Final Summary Report," August 10, 2014
  29. Politico, "Schatz-Hanabusa race too close to call," August 10, 2014
  30. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Ige Holds Healthy Lead Over Abercrombie in Hawaii Governor’s Race," June 12, 2014
  31. USA Today, "Hawaii gov. blames political loss on gay marriage," August 30, 2014
  32. 32.0 32.1 Honolulu Civil Beat, "Ige Holds Healthy Lead Over Abercrombie in Hawaii Governor’s Race," June 12, 2014
  33. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Civil Beat Poll: Ige Maintains Solid Lead Over Abercrombie," July 31, 2014
  34., "HSTA endorses David Ige for governor," February 16, 2014
  35. The Star Advertiser, "Abercrombie loses support of former ally Cayetano," November 17, 2013
  36. Washington Post, "Gov. Abercrombie to appoint Inouye’s replacement," December 17, 2012
  37. The Washington Post, "Hawaii governor picks Brian Schatz for Inouye’s seat," December 26, 2012
  38., "Inouye gave preference for successor before he died," December 18, 2012
  39. CBS news, "Inouye replacement to be named Wednesday," December 24, 2012
  40. Civil Beat, "Inouye's Last Wish Is Abercrombie's Biggest Burden," December 24, 2012
  41. The Hill, "Source: Hanabusa receiving 'a lot of pressure' to run against Abercrombie," December 27, 2012
  42. Hawaii News No, "Neil Abercrombie formally announces run for Hawaii governor's seat," September 3, 2009, accessed August 23, 2010
  43. Follow the Money, "Career fundraising for Neil Abercrombie," accessed July 9, 2013
  44. Follow the, "Home," accessed February 17, 2015
  46. The Hill, "Menendez: Turn the tables on journos," July 6, 2005
Political offices
Preceded by
Linda Lingle (R)
Governor of Hawaii
2010 - present
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Cecil Heftel
U.S. House of Representatives
1986 - 1987, 1991 - 2010
Succeeded by
Charles Djou (R)