Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie Says Support for Marriage Equality Cost Him His Reelection Bid

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who recently lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary to state Sen. David Ige, told reporters this week that it was his decision to call a special session last year to legalize marriage equality that ultimately led to his re-election bid defeat. 

The AP reports:

Abercrombie"Republicans crossed over en masse to vote in the Democratic primary, and then the religious factor came in," Abercrombie said. "Doctrinally I was outside the circle and paid for it." He argued that voters were urged to choose his opponent by their religious leaders.

Abercrombie, who spoke to reporters in his office, lost to Ige by a stunning 2-1 margin, the first time a Democratic governor has been unseated in a Hawaii primary.

But Abercrombie said losing was worth it to pass a law legalizing gay marriage.

"There's no way I could live with myself if I thought I was diminishing another human being's ability to reach their full capacity," Abercrombie said.

Executive director of the Hawaii Catholic Conference Walter Yoshimitsu said that he was unaware of any religious leaders urging voters to cross party lines and vote against Abercrombie in the primary. He did add though that many people were upset with Abercrombie's special session last year. 

"We couldn't have figured out what the urgency was," Yoshimitsu said. "If he had dealt with it in the regular session, there would have been more time."

Sometimes it's hard for the heterosexual Christians to see the "urgency" in the push for equal rights, ya know?


  1. Gordon says

    If the religion cross over was the Mormons, document that and get their tax free status removed. Make them pay for crossing the line.

  2. MIke says

    So the idea that he turned off a lot of old timer Hawaiian Democrats who were fans of Senator Daniel Inouye by deliberately doing something Inouye railed against when the Senator was alive, as was reported in the days after the election by all the press, is just a bunch of poppycock? It’s those Hawaiian Republicans! There are just SO many of them.

  3. UFFDA says

    “There’s no way I could live with myself if I thought I was diminishing another human being’s ability to reach their full capacity,” Abercrombie said.”‘

    A remarkable statement, and it makes him a very good guy in my book.

  4. Mrs. Sippi says

    NO! This is an insane recasting of why he lost. Ige has supported GLBT equality from the beginning. Take a look at some of Abercrombies other decisions, his proposal to raise taxes on seniors, the conventional wisdom that he became less of a champion for the people and more of an insider. Look at how the campaigns were run, Ige was out pounding the pavement, having stew dinners with potential voters all over the place, and connected deeply with community concerns. Also look at how Abercrombie’s team tried to win this in the press and not on the ground.

    Don’t get me wrong, the religious theocrats in Hawaii and all over the US will try to screw ya if you vote for equality, but that is not the big “why” here and Abercrombie is tone deaf is he doesn’t realize that.

  5. Brendan says

    I’m not buying that there are that many homophobes in Hawaii whose #1 voting issue is gay marriage. Blaming his support for gay marriage on why he was crushed in the election is the biggest GIFT anti-gay groups like NOM could have asked for. I’m sure they will use this to scare politicians—-democrat and republican alike—-across the US.

  6. Honesty says

    I believe the Democrat that beat him was also in favor of equal marriage, right? But regardless, I like that he says, “losing was worth it to pass a law legalizing gay marriage.” — thats what it means to be an ally.

  7. bambinoitaliano says

    That’s politic. You have a principle to hold on to. Such as do right by the people who you represents. It always comes with the consequences regardless of which side you pick. As long as you are genuine in believing what you are doing is the right cause and not grabbing to power by any means.

  8. Jamie says

    What POS. He lost because the HI economy is in poor shape. There is no evidence – none – that marriage equality played a role. There has never been any Democrat in any office anywhere in the country that has lost a primary challenge because of support for marriage equality. He claims to have been the first, but there was no outside spending from anti-gay groups, no major contributions from known anti-gay sources. No pro-equality legislators lost their seats. The one race that truly was about the marriage vote was a GOP House Rep who got a primary challenge from a prominent Mormon. The pro-equality incumbent won.

    He’s using us to make his humiliating defeat seem like some sort of noble sacrifice. Despicable.

  9. Christopher says

    Unfortunately, the hate of gay people by native Hawaiians is legendary. I had a business partner who lived there, full blood Hawaiian and after two years in business, he asked me over dinner one night if I was gay. I told him yes. Although he was calm and reserved during our conversation, the relationship was never the same. He became testy over the phone. I lived in San Francisco at the time. I finally chose to end our partnership. Hawaiians have a name for gay men which I have never heard except there -‘mahu’ – which the Urban Dictionary says Hawaiians use that word to refer to gays. As far as we have come to secure equality for LGBT people, I fear that like Jews, there will always be a sect of humanity that holds a grudge, most couldn’t tell you why. My theory is that they learned it from their parents and peers during grade school. There is a lot of work yet to be done.

  10. HIS says


    His tossing the teachers union under the bus hurt him

    His pro corporate policies vs the average citizen hurt him

    He is a fiscal conserva dem and thus Dem voters didnt support him

  11. Bob K says

    He lost because his assertive behaviour pointed out that he was white unlike most of the population.
    The local and the Japanese American thing is to get along don’t make waves don’t upset anybody do with the peopl and be nice

    if you watched the testimony online you saw how backward and hateful so many of these so called Christians in Hawaii are on this issue.

  12. Thom says

    Wow. There is a lot of mis-information in these comments! It’s depressing.

    I live in Hawaii, and am active politically.

    1. Hawaii’s economy is not in “poor shape.” Hawaii is tied for the 6th lowest unemployment in the country. The unemployment rate is 4.4%. It also ranks highly in median household income and per capita income.

    2. Native Hawaiians do not hate gay people. On the contrary, the Hawaiian community is, as a whole, far more accepting of homosexuality than most cultures. Many Hawaiian families have openly gay relatives, and no one cares. (I’m not Hawaiian.) The term “mahu” is a slang term that is rarely heard any more, but is the equivalent of “queer,” gay” or “fag.”

    3. It is a stretch to call Abercrombie pro-corporate and fiscal conservative. If you’re comparing him to San Francisco Democrat, perhaps.

    I agree with those who say that Abercrombie’s explanation of his loss is BS. No one voting against Abercrombie talked his support of same-sex marriage. Instead, we heard things noted by others in the comments: his missteps as an executive; his abrasive style; his dispute with the teachers; his decision to appoint Senator Schatz; Ige’s good grassroots campaign; and a strong turnout in certain ethnic groups.

  13. RexTIII says

    @Thom – Thanks, appreciate seeing a realistic comment on the subject of Neil’s recent loss. I’m surprised he’s hanging his hat on this as a primary reason, but that’s whatever that is.

  14. says

    Abercrombie lost because of his utter failure to address Hawaii’s energy crisis. He is a puppet of the Hawaiian Electric monopoly. And yes, Hawaii’s economy is a disaster because of those failures and the continuing shipping and electric utility monopoly. You can learn all about our energy crisis and its negative impact on our economy by reviewing and continuing to monitor this Google+ page and our petition.



    There are also efforts under way to end the shipping monopoly by getting an exemption of the Jones Act of 1920 for Hawaii or to end the Jones Act as being unconstitutional. The attorney for the lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric and the State of Hawaii also has a lawsuit to end the Jones Act.

    Hawaii’s economy will ONLY improve if these 2 monopolies are eliminated.