BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – When a political endorsement doesn’t go your way, why not just start a new group with almost the same name and have it endorse you so people think that the group you wanted to be endorsed by actually endorsed you in the first place.
Confused? That may be the plan of the Venture Capital Association of Hawaii, which last week announced its endorsement of Mufi Hannemann for Governor, Bobby Bunda for Lt. Governor, and Peter Carlisle for Mayor. The group just started up three week ago and has never held a public meeting.
That was roughly the time that a much more well-known group, the Hawaii Venture Capital Association, issued its endorsement of Hannemann’s Democratic political opponent, former Congress Member Neil Abercrombie. The association has 3,500 members across the state.
Bill Spencer, member of the HVCA, says his board carefully considered all candidates and made a unanimous decision to endorse Abercrombie: “We had our forum after we made our decision and kept an open mind, but still felt Neil was the best choice.”
Spencer says the new VC association “was obviously formed to counter our decision.” He adds, “We never declared that we represented ALL VC’s in Hawaii, but our board does represent a cross section of HVCA members and friends, which number greater than 3,500 people across the State. The Venture Capital Association of Hawaii, formed roughly three weeks ago does not have a following, has never held a public meeting and their first order of business was to endorse competing candidates.”
The months leading up to the September 18 primary election, which will determine the Democratic and Republican candidates for governor in the November election, has been especially contentious. Abercrombie and Hannemann exchange almost daily exchange barbs since Hannemann announced his intention to run for Governor in late May.
Hannemann immediately criticized Abercrombie for resigning from Congress in February, costing the state a $1 million for a special election and ultimately giving the seat to a Republican, Charles Djou.
Abercrombie countered that Hannemann should have resigned as Mayor of Honolulu immediately after announcing his intention to run for governor instead of on July 20 as Hawaii law requires.
Their ongoing rivalry has considerable history: 24 years ago, in 1986, Hannemann and Abercrombie battled in the primary over Hawaii’s 1st Congressional District.
KHON TV 2 News recounts the drama in a May 28 report detailing an ad that Hannemann ran: “Abercrombie has admitted publicly that he enjoys marijuana and feels the government should be sure that only a good quality is sold.”
Abercrombie denied the charge.
Their relationship is no cooler today.
Hannemann supporters have circulated a now notorious September 29, 1977 letter that Abercrombie wrote when he was in the state House. The letter was directed to then chair of the Board of Education chair Noburo Yonamine. Abercrombie merely wrote “Fuck you.” It was signed “Sincerely, Neil Abercrombie, Representative, 13th district.”
There was another email containing fake letters allegedly from a city contractor who claimed that he’d filed a federal complaint against Hannemann for illegal procurement practices. That contractor, of course, denied writing the letters through his attorney Bill McCorriston.
In mid-August, Hawaii News Now reported on a Hannemann campaign flier that angered Abercrombie: “The ad suggests that Abercrombie’s only real accomplishment is winning a beard contest in Lahaina. The former Congressman says the flier mocks and belittles him, distorts his record and misleads Hawaii voters.”
In yet another incident, Hannenmann campaign strategist Keith Rollman set up the Atomic Monkey web site, which documented much of Abercrombie’s “hippy” days, his scraggly hair cut, and the fact that Abercrombie book is selling on Amazon for 1 cent.
Rollman, who also works for the City as a Hannemann administrator, took down the site two weeks before Abercrombie’s campaign complained about it.
Rollman launched another web site about Abercrombie. And in a Hawaii Reporter exclusive, he wrote an editorial documenting “The Short Life and Premature Demise of Atomic Monkey.”
“The AtomicMonkey.WordPress site was my personal blog. It was not, as stated by Neil Abercrombie’s recent press release, a Hannemann campaign strategy. Several weeks ago the PR agency for Mufi expressed their concern that others might try to associate it with the Mayor so I took it down (over two weeks ago). As far as I know Mayor Hannemann never even saw it and certainly didn’t have anything to do with it. Assertions to the contrary by Abercrombie are simply speculation.”
Rollman maintains that “almost everyone but Neil thought AtomicMonkey was pretty funny,” adding that “making fun of politicians is a time honored American tradition that’s been around as long as we have, and so far the U.S. Supreme Court has defended us from the Neil Abercrombies of the world, and our constitutional right to depict them as we really see them.”
Abercrombie set up a section on his web site to “fact check” Hannemann’s claims about him. www.neilabercrombie.com/index…/neils_voting_record_in_congress/
The constant bickering between two of the Democratic party’s most powerful candidates led Hawaii’s senior US Senator Daniel Inouye last week to make a rare plea. He asked them to be more civil, and to stop the taunting and the name calling.
But if history is any indication, these big boys aren’t likely to stop picking on each other until at least September 18.
In the meantime, some say it is probably wise not to believe any email you read about either of them.
Reach Malia Zimmerman, editor of Hawaii Reporter, at Malia@hawaiireporter.com