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How Neil Abercrombie Lost Hawaii

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David S. Chang
CEO, Chang Holding Company
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      David S. Chang

      David S. Chang is an award-winning entrepreneur, wealth manager, keynote speaker, and consultant. He is the Chairman and CEO of Chang Holding Company. He founded Chang Holding Company in 2010 and is based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. David is also the editor of The Art of Thinking Smart, a blog and finance column in The Star-Advertiser’s weekly Midweek with a readership of over 400,000 people, and The Art of SMART Money, a Wealth Building Membership Program.

      David was elected Chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party in 2011 and 2013 and served as a member of the Republican National Committee. He was the youngest chair in the country when elected and the first Korean-American chair in the U.S. He was a super-delegate for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He was selected by Campaigns & Elections Magazine as Hawaii’s Top 10 Influencers of the 2012 Elections.

      In 2013 David was selected as Top 40 Under 40 Military by CivilianJobs.com. In 2011, Pacific Edge Magazine selected David as Young Professional of the Year. In 2010, he was selected as the Business Leader of the Year from the Pacific Business News 2010 class of Forty Under 40 in Hawaii. In 2011 he was a finalist for The Business Leadership Hawaii American Savings Bank Business Leader of the Year. He has also been selected as one of the Three Outstanding Young Persons Award by Hawaii Junior Chamber of Commerce, finalist as Top New Business of the Year by Hawaii Business News and honored by the World Chinese Venture Model Association.

      David's Wealth Management Company, WealthBridge Inc., was selected as a FIVE-STAR Wealth Manager for the State of Hawaii in 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011, representing the top 4% of Wealth Managers statewide. In 2014, 2013, and 2012 WealthBridge Inc. was selected by The National Association of Board Certified Advisory Practices (NABCAP) as a Premier Advisor. In 2012, they were awarded the "Excellence in Customer Satisfaction" Talk of the Town winner, with a 4.5 out of 5 stars rating.

      He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Computer Science and holds a Masters in Arts in Political Science from the University of Hawaii and a Masters in Theological Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. In addition, David was selected as an East-West Graduate Degree Fellow and earned a Certificate of Leadership from the East-West Center. He is a guest lecturer at universities in Hawaii.

      David has served in the U.S. Army as an active duty Armor and Military Intelligence Officer with the 25th Infantry Division. He is a veteran of the Global War on Terror and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He currently serves as the 29th Brigade Combat Team Intelligence Officer in the Hawaii Army National Guard.

      David is a member of the Financial Planning Association and is the past Chair of the Young Professionals program of The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, is on the Board of Directors for Builders Industry Hawaii (BIA), and involved with local church ministries. David is an accomplished musician, leading numerous church music teams playing the guitar, trumpet, piano, and lead vocals.

      David is married to Beth Fukumoto Chang, an elected Hawaii State Representative for District 36 – Mililani and Mililani Mauka. She has a B.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and an M.A. in American Studies from Georgetown University.

Governor Neil Abercrombie was a Democrat governor in a heavily Democrat state. He had a healthy and growing economy, low unemployment, and claimed that the state budget was stronger than ever.

On top of that, he outraised his relatively unknown primary opponent ten-to-one, was endorsed by President Barack Obama (who is still very popular in Hawaii), and had Hawaii’s history of re-electing incumbents on his side.

Well, history is always remade, and it was remade Saturday in Hawaii’s primary election. Governor Neil Abercrombie became the first sitting governor in Hawaii’s history to lose a primary challenge.

State Senator David Ige beat Governor Abercrombie 66 percent to 31 percent, a whopping 35 percent difference. Abercrombie’s 40 years in political office came to an abrupt end with his early concession and first loss since 1986.

Although recent polls showed that Abercrombie was far behind, the margin of his loss was very telling. Even his extra TV and press time from hurricanes heading toward Hawaii didn’t provide a bump that it did for Obama’s reelection campaign during Hurricane Sandy.

In 2010, Abercrombie, who served as a state senator, state representative, Honolulu city councilmember, and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, swept into the governor’s seat after beating Democrat Mayor Mufi Hannemann by 21 percent in the primary, and Republican Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona by 22 percent in the general.

His 2010 “New Day in Hawaii” campaign was appealing to many and offered a promise of better days following years of economic hardship. Yet almost immediately, Abercrombie, began alienating the very voters that put him into office. Most politicians end up angering one group to please another. It’s very tough to anger everyone, but it seems Abercrombie did so.

It started with his push to tax seniors’ pensions, which was strongly opposed by the AARP and rejected soundly by the Hawaii Legislature in 2011. Video and clips circulated of the governor badgering lawmakers during a hearing on the subject and later, he was quoted stating that he will “roll over the AARP” should they get in his way next session.

Then, came his infamous response to questions from reporters about negative reactions to his proposal to reduce Medicare reimbursements for retired public workers. His response, directed at opponents of the proposal was simply, “I am the governor. I’m not your pal. I’m not your counselor. I am the governor. And I am determined to be truthful with everybody about what we have to do together to survive.” One prominent reporter turned the comment into a ringtone that could be downloaded on his newspaper’s blog.

And, there were a few other missteps. He dismissed the popular NFL Pro Bowl by calling it “so stupid” for the state to pay to have it in Hawaii, despite the fact that it directly generated more than $30 million in revenue. He refused to negotiate in good faith with some of Hawaii’s large government unions (Hawaii is the third most unionized state). He also proposed a constitutional amendment to allow public funds to be used to pay for private, non-religious preschools angering faith-based preschools and the Hawaii’s teachers’ union alike.

But, most importantly, he very publicly disregarded the last wishes of Hawaii’s beloved senior Senator Daniel Inouye who passed away in December 2012. Inouye had clearly stated in a letter that he wanted U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa to finish his term after his death. Instead of honoring those wishes, Abercrombie chose then-Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz and to add insult to injury suggested that someone else made up the late senator’s request.

He later apologized to Senator Inouye’s widow Irene, but the damage was done. To many, his direct, blunt, and combative style went against Hawaii’s longstanding cultural norms. And, he was consistently rated as “the most unpopular governor” in the country despite the fact the state went for Obama by 70 percent in 2012.