Abercrombie announced Friday he is resigning from the U.S. House of Representatives to focus on his campaign for governor.
Abercrombie has served Hawaii in congress for 20 years. In march he announced he would run for governor, but said at the time he did not intend resign to run. The gubernatorial race has, however, changed since then. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann is expected to face Abercrombie in the democratic primary.
Friday Abercrombie said he has decided to "concentrate all my efforts on becoming the next Governor of Hawaii."
In a statement, the congressman said, "This is an extremely difficult decision for me, but I must do this to continue with the direction I've chosen for the future. Accordingly, I've concluded that I must resign my congressional seat and allow someone to be elected who will carry on the work of this office."
But will there be a special election to replace Abercrombie, or will his seat in congress be vacant until a replacement is elected in the November General Election?
"That will invoke consideration of a number of factors including staffing and funding in the capacity to hold a special election," said Kevin Cronin, the state's Chief Election Officer.
The Chief Election Officer decides whether or not there will be a special election.
In this case there are several obstacles to such an election. The first is cost.
The special election to fill a congressional seat was in 2002 after U.S. Representative Patsy Mink passed away.
That election cost $2-million. And with the state mired in a budget crisis, Cronin said the Office of Elections has just more than $461,000 to last the next six months.
There is also a manpower problem. A recent report shows the election office staff of 33 is down to just 14 people."One of the options would be if a special election is held, because it is such an election, it can be held as an all mail election," Cronin said.
The city conducted two elections by mail earlier this year to find replacements for members of the Honolulu City Council. Those elections were considerably less expensive than traditional elections.
And there's another obstacle to holding a special election.
Cronin is himself resigning at the end of the year. The Hawaii Elections Commission will have to find a replacement.
Three prominent local politicians have already said they will run for Abercrombie's vacant seat, whether it is contested during a special election or during the usual election cycle in the fall.
"My campaign is out in front. We're active. We're organized," Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou said.
"From our perspective, we're ready to go. there's no need to ramp up at all.. We're ramped up.. Ready," former congressman Ed Case told Hawaii News Now.
"Were at a pace that we are very comfortable with of course were all going to have to pick it up," Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said.
Djou expects to be the only republican with a change to replace Abercrombie.
"My record of fiscal responsibility and constantly fighting for reducing government spending, for ethics in government, and making sure we have responsible stewardship in government, I think it plays well. It plays well to a good segment of the public and I'm confident when the special election is held, we'll come out with at least a plurality. Of course we hope for a majority but all we really need is a plurality," Djou said.
Case is a former U.S. Representative who served four years in congress from 2002 until 2006.
"I've got the experience," Case told Hawaii News Now. "I've got the relationships. I know the people. I know the issues. And we'll be saying to the voters, hey, you want somebody that can pick it up on day one ... that's only one candidate. I think for me, the opportunity to communicate to voters that look, this is a special election. This is going to be in the middle of a very crucial congress, and I can step into that job without missing a beat."
Hanabusa represents the Leeward Coast of Oahu in the state senate, but says she has broad support throughout the First Congressional District.
"One of the things that I believe that I have always had an advantage on is I do have a strong grass roots. And since announcing earlier for the congressional race, we've had great support from all parts of the congressional district," Hanabusa said.
"In deciding to run for this particular race, it's because I believe that my skill set is as a legislator, and a legislator is someone who is able to enact laws, get things through, build that consensus and get the necessary votes. and that's what you need when your in congress. You need someone who is a legislator."