Aloha Neil Abercrombie

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There’s a legend in Hawaii about a surfer named Eddie Aikau. In the 70’s Eddie was the top lifeguard in Waimea Bay on Oahu, winning dozens of surf competitions. He was always the guy willing to risk his life, no matter how rough the water, to make a save. Eddie volunteered for the 1978 Polynesian Voyaging Society’s 30-day, 2,500-mile paddling voyage, tracing the ancient route of the Polynesian migration between the Hawaiian and Tahitian island chains. His double hulled canoe developed a leak in one of the hulls and later capsized about twelve miles south of the island of Molokai. That first night Eddie begged the captain to let him paddle on his long board the 12 miles to shore, but fearing for Eddie’s life the captain refused. By the next morning, the situation was getting dire. Though they were now 20 miles from shore, the captain allowed Eddie to go. He was never seen again. The rest of the crew was later rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and ensuing search for Eddie was the largest air-sea search in Hawaii history. In Eddie honor, Quicksilver sponsors the “The Eddie” – a big surf invitational competition at Waimea Bay held only when open ocean swells top 20 feet (meaning at face height they’re 30 feet).

Throughout the late 70’s bumper stickers were everywhere on the islands, “Eddie would go.” In Hawaii culture it has come to symbolize the ultimate bravery and sacrifice for others and for one’s ideals.

Both Rep. Neil Abercrombie (who went to school Obama’s parents in Honolulu) and President Obama would know the story of Eddie. One could argue that Obama’s pushing through of health care reform at all costs is an “Eddie would go” move. Abercrombie, not so much. Yesterday he resigned, depriving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of a an “aye” vote at a time when every vote counts on health care reform, to focus on his run for governor. Sure – his departure is mitigated by the resignation of Rep. Nathan Deal, a Georgia Republican – but Dems are asking, Abercrombie couldn’t have toughed it out another month to see health care done?

His departure also means that a special election will be held on May 22 to fill Abercrombie’s seat for the rest of his term. The heavy favorite is Honolulu Council Member Charles Djou, the Republican candidate. The two Democratic candidates, former Rep. Ed Case and State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa have focused their fire on each other. The district, which encompasses Pearl Harbor, is heavily military and is more GOP-leaning than its overwhelming vote for native son Obama in 2008 would imply. Losing the district would be a blow to Dems not only for the lost seat in a blue state but becuase this is literally the President’s childhood home.