Neil Abercrombie has been elected Hawaii’s next governor, becoming the first Democrat to hold the seat in eight years, clearing the way for same-sex civil unions to become state law next year.
Abercrombie, a former 10-term congressman who represented urban Honolulu and who resigned his congressional seat eight months ago to seek the state’s top job, is a gay rights supporter who said he would sign a same-sex civil unions bill if passed by the Legislature.
Earlier this year, the Hawaii Legislature passed a bill that would have granted same-sex couples the state rights of marriage, but it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle in July.
In Tuesday’s election, the state House and Senate retained the Democratic majorities that approved the civil unions bill last April.
If passed by the legislature again in 2011, the move would make Hawaii, long a battleground in the gay rights movement, the sixth state to grant essentially the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.
Abercrombie defeated Republican Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona by a large margin.