December 26th, 2012
07:10 PM ET
10 years ago

Hawaii governor taps Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz as new U.S. senator

(CNN) – Hawaii’s governor announced Wednesday that Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz will fill the seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant after the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Schatz, 40, is a former state legislator and executive of a nonprofit group.

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie was widely expected to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to the seat. Hours before Inouye died of respiratory complications at age 88, he named Hanabusa as his preferred successor.

“Of course Senator Inouye’s views and his wishes were taken into account fully,” Abercrombie said. “But the charge of the central committee and by extension then myself as governor, was to act in the overall best interest of this party. …

“The law makes explicitly clear as does the rules of the Democratic Party, that … everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s view is taken into account - nonetheless, no one and nothing is preordained,” he continued.

Schatz said he would seek election to a full term in 2014, when a special election will be held to fill the spot until 2016, which would have been the end of Inouye’s ninth term.

“I am honored to serve in this capacity, and I can assure you that if given the opportunity, I will make Hawaii proud,” he said. “I’m going to work very hard, and I understand the road ahead is going to be challenging for all of us, but it also is potentially a hopeful time to rebuild as a united congressional delegation.”

He was alongside Hanabusa's on a list of three names provided to Abercrombie by the state party earlier on Wednesday.

Schatz served in the Hawaii state Legislature from 1998 to 2006, including as the majority whip and in committee leadership positions involving the environment, education, and commerce.

As lieutenant governor, he has led efforts relating to clean energy as well as private and public investment in the state.

He previously led one of the state’s largest nonprofit social services organizations.

Schatz will immediately be faced with pressing business in Washington, where congressional leaders and President Barack Obama are negotiating a deal to avoid automatic year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

Obama was scheduled to fly back to Washington from his Christmas vacation in Hawaii on Wednesday night, and a White House official said Schatz would fly back with Obama.

He is expected to be sworn in on Thursday afternoon.

Inouye's Senate seat was vacant for a little over a week. Mindful of upcoming legislation in the Senate - including potential measures to avert the year-end fiscal cliff - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Abercrombie to name a successor as quickly as possible.

Abercrombie said that his decision was in the “overall best interest” of the state and that “sometimes you have to set aside personal considerations in order to look for the good of the whole.”

“Now that Sen. [Daniel] Akaka has retired and Senator [Daniel] Inouye has passed away, that Representative Hanabusa occupies a key position on the Armed Services Committee in the House of Representatives,” he said.

“She has an excellent reputation in the House of Representatives. I know that from my contacts with people that I’ve known for more than two decades in the house, she has the confidence of the minority leader and the leadership in the house and I think as well the question of establishing seniority in as many venues as we can with our small delegation is another foremost consideration.”

The island state has two seats in Congress. The state’s other congresswoman, Rep. Mazie Hirono, was elected to Akaka’s seat in November.

With five decades in the Senate, Inouye had been the second-longest serving senator in U.S. history. He had represented Hawaii in Washington since statehood in 1959. He died December 17.

Filed under: Daniel Inouye • Hawaii
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. deewa2010

    For gosh sake, no party affiliation info... at the very least you should have added that.

    December 26, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  2. Tom

    Something of a disappointment not to respect the final wishes of Senator Inouye.

    December 26, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  3. GDave

    Senator Inouye was one of the few members of congress that had the respect of many Americans regardless of his political affiliation. His integrity and character will be missed.

    December 26, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  4. Bob

    Cool, he picked a minority. LOL

    December 26, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  5. Mike A,

    So much for the last wishes of a war hero and senior citizen. One might have thought Sen. Inouye's wish would have been honored. Aloha.

    December 26, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  6. Southern Yankee

    Abercrombie said. “But the charge of the central committee and by extension then myself as governor, was to act in the overall best interest of this party. …

    Wouldn't it be better to act in the best interest of the people whom he represents? Just askin...

    December 26, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. Sam

    Wow, what a surprise, but it all about Politics and not selecting the right individual. Sad that Politics wins out on all decisions.

    December 26, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. jerome

    “But the charge of the central committee and by extension then myself as governor, was to act in the overall best interest of this party. …

    I thought that the charge was to act in the best interest of the people of Hawaii. Silly me.

    December 26, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. Bill

    The Governor certainly has no respect for a Senator who served 50+ years .

    December 26, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  10. 60driver

    Funny, I thought that the best interests of the state should come first, not the party as the governor said.

    December 26, 2012 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  11. Bhimrao

    Our Governor made a logical and a great choice. We need a young and competent senator and Brian Schatz is certainly that. Congratulations to Brian Schatz. Good choice Gov.

    December 26, 2012 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  12. TopKnowledge

    What a joke. Instead of nominating U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the most qualified person to represent Hawaii in the U.S. Senate, embattled Gov. Neil Abercrombie has chosen a political lightweight to fill the shoes of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. This is Abercrombie's revenge because Inouye supported former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann for governor in the 2010 race.

    December 26, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  13. John Monteiro

    This fellow is not even a native Hawaiian. Senator Inouye knew the best person for that position since he was the longest serving Senator from that state. The fix is on.

    December 26, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  14. Yanni

    The governor acted in the best interest of the"party". What about the people of the state?

    December 26, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  15. zimbot

    Schatz is a smart fellow and will do well. He's somewhat close with the President, so that helps. Glad to see him appointed rather than Hanabusa, which would have triggered a special election with perennial candidates vying for that seat.

    December 26, 2012 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  16. Frank X. Quinn

    Governor Abercrombie deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing and selecting Brian Schatz; he is more than qualified to do the job, He can be re-elected to serve multiple terms like Inouye and Akakka and the tax payers of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii will not have to pay for a special election. Congratulations Brian and Best of Luck!

    December 26, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  17. William

    Apparently the rumours that the late Senator from Hawaii and the current Governor out here did not get along were true.

    December 26, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  18. Joan

    Dumb choice!!!! Gov. Abercrombie just lost his next election!!!!!

    December 26, 2012 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  19. HenryMiller

    “But the charge of the central committee and by extension then myself as governor, was to act in the overall best interest of this party. … "

    I guess it shouldn't be surprising that "the overall best interest of this party" is considered more important than serving the best interests of the people of Hawaii. It's about what we expect from politicians these days.

    December 26, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  20. Rogue351

    Words of advice, nothing is free. Anything you tell a fellow senitor will at some point be turned against you. It's all about money and dont forget that. Nothing the GOP does is based on morals no matter how much they say is. Last but not least remember who you are working for, the people. Not yourself, Not your party, Not the President. The people you represent. So read all of the fine print.

    December 27, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  21. Thomas

    All the best to you and the great state of Hawaii .

    You have some big shoes to fill !

    December 27, 2012 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  22. kathrynsimpson

    Governor Abercrombie actually said that appointment to the United States Senate should be 'in the best interest of this party'?? That embodies what is wrong with politics across the Union right now... politicians doing what is in the best interest of 'the party' instead of what is in the best interest of our NATION!! Or at least, in this case, the best interest of the State of Hawaii! It should never be about what is in the best interest of a 'party'.

    December 27, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  23. sly guy

    Danny will be missed. A true american war hero, gave his all on the field of battle, Then answered his country'e call to serve with intelligence and dignity.

    December 27, 2012 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  24. Mark Brunette

    With all due respect to the deceased Senator, there should be a mandatory retirement age for all federal elected politicians. 70 years old at the most. Representatives older than that do not represent the interests of their electorate.

    December 27, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  25. Charles Stableford

    No surprise: Brian is part of the Obama machine here in our state,and his spectacular lack of any experience means nothing, especially when it comes to job qualifications. The interesting question to ask is, why in a state where nepotism is the political lingua franca, would Neil pick a border-line republican that the Esteemed Senator didn't mention?

    December 27, 2012 02:24 am at 2:24 am |