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Thursday, November 03, 2005

HI-Gov: Abercrombie (D) Won't Run

Posted by DavidNYC

Confirming our suspicions of last week, Rep. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii won't run for governor next year. Interestingly, it looks like big players in HI politics (such as Sen. Daniel Inouye) were pushing Abercrombie not to seek higher office (apparently because of his seniority in Congress). Usually it feels like the situation is reversed, with the Chuck Schumers of the world pressuring people to take the ultimate statewide plunge.

Unfortunately, this means that the Dems out in paradise have no big names to challenge Lingle. I have this nagging feeling that Hawaii is trending Republican. Just one data-point: According to Survey USA, Bush still has a 39-54 approval rating in HI. But look at this chart - Hawaii stubbornly shows up as Bush's most favorable blue state (followed closely by Minnesota, another troublesome - and nominally - blue state).

Anyhow, I bring this up because even if 2006 is a big Dem year nationwide, I don't know how much of an effect that will have in Hawaii, where the winds of change seem headed in the opposite direction. A no-name candidate can potentially pull off a big upset in a landslide year - think George Pataki, 1994. But I don't think HI is fertile ground, especially since Lingle has pretty good approval ratings.

P.S. Does the DGA recruit candidates in the same way that the DSCC and DCCC do? Or are gubernatorial races strictly local affairs?

(Abercrombie story via Political Wire.)

Posted at 02:10 AM in 2006 Elections - State, Hawaii | Technorati

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I have a nagging feeling you're right about Hawaii, as I mentioned the same Bush approval rating numbers in this week's "Weekly Races to Watch" thread. Where does Lingle stand on the ideological spectrum? Closer to Bush or closer to Pataki? The really scary part is that if Lingle is re-elected next year, she'll be the easy front-runner for the 2010 Senate race, where geriatric Dan Inouye is likely to retire. The one encouraging sign about Hawaii is that even last year when we got the willies about Hawaii late in the race, the needle didn't move much in the three lesser islands (Kauai, Hawaii and Maui) where Kerry still won by more than 20 points. Unfortunately, they make up about 30% of Hawaii's collective population. If Oahu trends Republican enough, the other three islands won't matter much. As I said earlier, if we can't even count on four Democratic Congresspersons coming out of Hawaii, envisioning the Dems becoming a majority party becomes harder.

And Minnesota is cause for some heartburn too, particularly for me since I live here. The good news that can come out of the Minnesota numbers is that Bush's disapproval numbers would be pretty hard disapproval. Those who dislike the Bush agenda here REALLY dislike it. On the other hand, the culture in Minnesota's exurban fringe is identical to that of Roswell, Georgia, and Plano, Texas....a steady and unwavering infusion of disproportionately evangelical anti-government professionals breeding thousands of new future Republicans every year. Long-term, it's hard to imagine how Minnesota stays blue. In the short-term, I think Amy Klobuchar has an excellent chance next year, and even our gubernatorial candidates have a solid chance of picking off Pawlenty. The arithmatic hasn't gotten insurmountable in Minnesota yet, but we're inching towards that threshold every year.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 11:13 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think, in the case of both Minnesota and Hawaii, there are trends happening that we tend to be ignore until it takes a hunk out of us.

Some say Minnesota's slide is based on the arrival and growth of exurban yuppies within the population, the cash they have, and their belief that the Republicans match their views better, but I also think a lot of it is a lack of a unified message within the DFL. There really appears to be a disconnect between old guard and progressive forces in the state, and a lack of fresh blood to revitalize the next generation of the party, that takes into acount the changed situation in Minnesota.

I suspect a lot of that is going on in Hawaii - both are also states that have a well-entrenched Democratic Party that hasn't had to think much about reforming itself and ensuring its relevence to its voters.

Although it's virtually non-existent on our radar, I also wouldn't be surprised if some of what is happening in Hawaii is also blowback from the growing autonomy/independence movement within the state. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the growing Republican sentiment within Hawaii is not only that fresh blood is needed within the leadership, but a reaction by folks that are worried about the outgrowth of that movement. I have a friend from Hawaii (Japanese-American, born and raised there until he left for college), and he has commented lately about how, during his annual visits to his family, he sees much more friction between whites and non-whites there than ever before.

Posted by: palamedes [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 01:17 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It's unlikely any strong Democrat will challenge Lingle, and there hasn't been much momentum from Democrats in Hawaii on getting her out. What WILL be the future problem for Democrats is what Lingle does. Both Hawaii senators are in their 80s, and will likely leave office in the next decade. Lingle is positioning herself for a run at one of those seats.

Posted by: erich [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 02:02 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

A lesser-noticed trend in Minnesota has been the extension of exurbia into northern Minnesota cabin country. Basically the whole Mississippi River Valley north of the metro area has become "Chanhassen North" in the last two decades, with yuppies buying up the last remnants of lakefront property like it's going out of style, and ultimately overwhelming the prevailing populist political ethic of the $7-an-hour natives. A couple years ago, I was driving south from Bemidji to the Twin Cities at the beginning of the July 4 weekend. It was essentially bumper-to-bumper Lexuses for 200 miles. The only reason Minnesota is still competitive is that moderate Republicans in second-ring suburbs like Bloomington have become inclined to vote Democrat.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 02:50 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I grew up here in Hawaii so I think I have a pretty good idea of the political landscape. Hawaii is still a blue state--don't you worry about that but the Democratic Party in Hawaii has been a good ol' boys system for far too long. This meant that the party just relied on the unions to turn everyone out and thats how we consistently won. When the Republicans finally fielded a credible candidate in Linda Lingle many democrats voted for her because the party hasn't produced any strong leaders in recent years and has taken its position for granted.

This doesn't mean that the Republicans haven't been hard at work trying to change the political culture. They have two newspapers that have a conservative slant and they scared everyone by producing the bogus polls last year that showed Hawaii in play for Bush. They also have been trying to increase their numbers in the state legislature but I am happy to say they have been unsuccessful and they lost seats last election.

So is Lingle beatable? Oh yes, make no mistake she only beat an extremely weak candidate in Hirono last election by less than one percent of the vote. The party is currently scrambling to find someone and if they pick the wrong person then its game over because Hawaii dems and voters in general are very unwilling to get behind a perceived loser but with a half decent candidate this race will be hot. Abercrombie needs to hold off for the Senate seats himself--it would be unwise to sacrifice him to this kind of competitive race.

With a little reform to the Hawaii dems we will be ready to go for 06'--don't you worry just yet or right us off!

Posted by: hawaiidem [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 06:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I am also from Minnesota, and I agree that the exurbs are in fact a problem. However, I think there are some things happening that can counter their growth. One of them is that more and more Hispanics and Hmong are coming to the MSP urban area. If the DFL can work to enfranchise these voters and represent their needs, they could represent a boon to party numbers that could partially offset the exurbs. Also, nobody's mentioned what happened with the House races in Rochester in 2004. This is another rapidly expanding portion of the state that will only help the DFL. Finally, I agree that the DFL needs to offer a compelling (and unified) vision. I think with what is happening with all of the school referendums around the state, education will be a MAJOR issue come '06. We can hit Pawlenty and Sviggum as hard as possible on that front, as well as their attempt to kick people off of MinnesotaCare last session. I for one am not worried about Minnesota trending red. And not to worry, palamedes, I intend to return to my home state following college to provide "a kick of fresh blood" for the next generation.

Posted by: Max [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2005 09:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Max, I was gonna comment on the encouraging trend in Rochester, where the shift towards purpleness has been very much needed in offsetting GOP gains in the suburban fringe. The trend started in 2000 when Bush's numbers were soft and Mark Dayton actually beat Rod Grams in the city. Norm Coleman's margin was pretty soft in 2002 as well. Last year, my dad spent alot of time door-knocking in Rochester and mentioned to me several times how surprised he was at the level of support Kerry was pulling in the city. Kerry's late October visit to the city drew in massive crowds and it definitely seemed as though we had some momentum in what used to be considered "the heart and soul of Minnesota's Republican Party". Bush did win Rochester, but by an abysmal one percentage point margin. Two out of three state House GOP incumbents were toppled, with the third hanging on by the skin of his teeth. Going into '06, I think Tina Liebling's chances of re-election are good, but Andy Welti's in the most conservative Rochester district that extends into the rural areas east of the city. His youth seemed to have helped him last year, but he's gonna have a huge partisan advantage to overcome this year if he's to return to St. Paul.

I would generally agree with you that the influx of Hmong are helping the Democratic cause in Minnesota, but I'm less certain about Hispanics. As someone who has studied immigrant labor fairly intensely, I can attest to the fact that a small percentage of Hispanic workers in the state are voting-eligible citizens, and the revolving door nature of the jobs they fill ensures the kind of nomadic lifestyle that sends a large percentage of them from one food-processing town to the next, rarely laying down the kind of permanent roots that leads to a political realignment.

If anything, the influx of Hispanic laborers in Minnesota has helped Republicans. Take a look at Minnesota communities with large food-processing plants and large Hispanic populations and where the political trendline has gone in the past 25 years. A couple great examples are Willmar and Worthington, both of which are now more than 25% Hispanic. Both of these communities were so Democratic that they went handily for George McGovern back in 1972 because the processing plants had a politically-active unionized workforce. When non-union Hispanics replaced unionized natives in the 1980s, the shift to the right started and never relented. The old Democratic workforce either moved out or is dying off following the meatpacking meltdown, while the new mostly Hispanic workforce has neither union representation or the citizenship necessary to vote. The end result: Willmar and Worthington have some of the lowest voter turnout rates in the state and are generally Republican towns in the year 2005.

If you look at heavily-Hispanic food processing towns throughout the country, you'll see that few if any are trending Democrat, and in fact are shifting even more Republican....like Garden City and Liberal, Kansas; Guymon, Oklahoma; Storm Lake, Iowa; Columbus, Nebraska; Gainesville, Georgia; and Rogers, Arkansas;..just to name a few. The bottom line is that I believe the extent to which Hispanic immigration is gonna empower the Democratic party, at least outside of the states which already have entrenched Hispanic populations, is grossly overstated.

Sorry for the lengthy rant, but the subject of Minnesota politics tends to inspire me. Looking forward to your "fresh blood" in the party when you return home.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 4, 2005 01:56 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

sorry, gotta correct one of the comments so bad info doesn't get out ...

"They have two newspapers that have a conservative slant"

That's not exactly true -- I mean both the advertiser and star bulletin endorsed Gore and Kerry, and Clinton both times.

"So is Lingle beatable? Oh yes, make no mistake she only beat an extremely weak candidate in Hirono last election by less than one percent of the vote."

Not true -- Lingle lost by 4 percent.


Posted by: erich [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 4, 2005 07:58 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment