Cayetano drops support for Abercrombie, backs Ige

Cayetano drops support for Abercrombie, backs Ige
Published: Nov. 18, 2013 at 11:00 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2013 at 1:13 AM HST
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Former Governor Ben Cayetano
Former Governor Ben Cayetano
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Governor Neil Abercrombie
State Sen. David Ige
State Sen. David Ige
Colin Moore
Colin Moore

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Gov. Ben Cayetano, one of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's oldest political allies, will not support Abercrombie's re-election next year.

Cayetano said Abercrombie has not been tough enough in negotiations with the state's public worker unions and has been too lenient allowing large high-rise developments to get approvals in Kakaako.

Cayetano said he will oppose Abercrombie's campaign for re-election, even though they are old friends who used to buck the establishment decades ago when they served in the State Senate.

"We would take on the big guys, the unions, big business.  He used to be a strong voice for the little guy.  He's not now," Cayetano said.

Cayetano is supporting Pearl City-Aiea State Sen. David Ige, who's running against Abercrombie in next year's Democratic primary for governor.

"Governor Cayetano has insights and a perspective that you can only get from someone who has served as governor.  So I welcome his support," Ige said.

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi will also back Ige, and not Abercrombie, in next year's Democratic primary. It's unusual for two Democrats to throw their support behind a non-incumbent Democrat in the governor's race.

In a written statement, Abercrombie's campaign chair Bill Kaneko said the governor will continue to have the "highest respect" for those who have held the position of governor in Hawaii.

"By restoring our economy, establishing sound fiscal management, advancing educational achievement, and meeting housing needs, his record is clear," Kaneko said.

"At the end of the day, we're confident voters will make their choice based on these and other accomplishments and qualifications," Kaneko added.

Colin Moore, a UH Manoa Political Science professor and political analyst, said, "This is a really remarkable development.  I think it means that the governor's race has become a real race at this point.  Whereas before I think it was pretty clear that Governor Abercrombie wouldn't face much opposition."

"Now you have two former governors who can both give Ige the sort of name recognition that he doesn't have outside of his Pearl City district and they can tap into their very deep donor bases to help improve his campaign finances," Moore said.

And Ige could use a lot of help raising money because Abercrombie has a huge fundraising advantage.

As of June 30, Abercrombie reported $2.1 million in campaign cash, compared to $86,379 in Ige's campaign war chest.

"I'm confident that we can raise the money to tell our story," Ige said. "We will be working the grass roots trying to establish on a one-to-one basis."

"Nobody should sell David (Ige) short," Cayetano said. "Because if an old friend like me feels like this (about Abercrombie), imagine the people who are not that close to him."

"Quite a few people who are close" to Abercrombie feel the same way, Cayetano said.

Cayetano declined an on-camera interview, but explained why he's no longer supporting his old friend, Abercrombie.

"Since he's become governor he's reversed himself on principles he used to fight for.  He's no longer champion of the little guy," Cayetano said.

"Twenty years in Congress didn't prepare Neil to be governor," Cayetano said. "He'll say one thing and then he'll do another."

"It was painful for me to do it," Cayetano said about dropping his support for Abercrombie, who he considers a close friend of nearly 40 years. "The stakes are too important for friendship to get in the way."

Ige has spent 28 years in the legislature, after Ariyoshi first appointed him to the State House in 1985. He spent nine years in the House and the last 19 in the State Senate, where he chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which handles money matters.

Ige said he traveled to the Big Island last weekend, visiting supporters and holding coffee hours in Hilo, Kona, Kohala and Pahoa.

"People want change.  They aren't happy with what's happening in our state," Ige said. "They see more and more communities divided and they don't think it's good for Hawaii."

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