Gov. Neil Abercrombie gets to decide

The Washington Post has come up with one of its usual inside-the-Beltway, “we asked everyone at our cocktail party” articles about who will take Senator Daniel Inouye’s place.

Of course, it’s in their typical “we know this person, and we want to protect our access” form. It doesn’t provide an accurate run-down of potential candidates, a view of Hawaii Democratic politics, or much of anything of value, other than the usual mutual back-scratching.

This is not to say that Hanabusa wouldn’t be an okay candidate, but I think readers of the Post deserve better.

First, a bit of history. Daniel Inouye has been Hawaii’s Senator FOREVER [see his interesting biography] and is of course being lauded from here to Sunday. He ran the state as his own fiefdom. One reason Ed Case [see below] is in such disfavor as a possible replacement is that Case angered Inouye by daring to challenge Sen. Daniel Akaka, prior to Akaka’s retirement this year. No, no, Case, Inouye gets to pick the next Senator!

Second, the Post fails to mention one quirky detail about a possible Hanabusa candidacy: she’s a House member, and a special election would have to be held to replace her. Special elections cost $$$$$$$$. Hawaii’s governor Abercrombie should know: he retired from his House seat in 2010 to get a jump on starting his campaign for governor. Hawaii had to hold a special election to replace him. It cost boatloads of money, and there’s a lot of lingering resentment over that. The special election also gave Hawaii the incredibly feeble Republican Represenative Charles Djou. What an embarrassment. [In the quirks of a special election, all can run. Two Dems split the vote, so Djou snuck in.]

Third, Hawaii law provides that a Senate vacancy such as this shall be filled by the governor, from a list of three names submitted by the prior Senator’s party. [Don't know why they didn't get smart enough to make such a provision for House seats, and avoid that messy special election situation.] This introduces two variables: who’s going to be on the list [what sort of in-fighting is going on among Dems?] and whom will Abercrombie choose — or more likely, whom does he hate so much that there’s not a chance in hell he’d choose them?

And another wrinkle: Abercrombie could choose himself, or create some “I’ll resign and then you’ll appoint me” charade. Word on the street has always been that Abercrombie didn’t like DC and his House seat. He might be more inclined to make those long plane trips for the prestige of being a US Senator. That’s a rumbling I’m hearing among those more in the know re Hawaii politics than I am.

Next, possible candidates other than Hanabusa. First, there’s Brian Schatz, currently Hawaii’s Lt. Governor. In a remarkable coincidence, Schatz attended Punahou School and Pomona College in CA, like another famous Hawaii native son. He served in the Hawaiian legislature from 1998-2006, and chaired the Dem. Party there from 2006 until his election in 2010. He’s a generally good guy, and my personal favorite.

The Post mentions Ed Case. They put a “D” next to his name, which is a laugh. He’s despised by most Hawaiian Democrats, other than developers. And, as mentioned above, he had the gall to challenge Akaka. Not. A. Chance.

The Post also mentions Mufi Hannaman. Mufi just lost big in his attempt to be Congressman from Hawaii. He’s a “good ole boy,” with a lot of stick-in-the-mud policies. I don’t think Abercrombie likes him, so I wouldn’t hold out for his ascension.

Tulsi Gabbard, who was also mentioned, is a possibility, although since she was JUST elected to the House [to fill the seat of Mazie Hirono, who succeeded in her bid to take Akaka's Senate seat]. Tulsi’s good, attractive and was featured at the Democratic Convention. Abercrombie could choose her, but it would be a surprise.

Finally, often these appointments are filled by someone on the Senator’s staff. Don’t know about that. My husband and I perused the listing, but no one stood out to us as a possible dark horse.

That’s the best I’ve got, but I’m hoping it’s better than what the Post gave you.

On edit:  I’m wondering about the timing of selecting the “replacement.”  I’m willing to bet that Obama is leaning heavily on Abercrombie and Hawaii Dems for an early decision, to get one more Democrat into the Senate chamber before he presents his Grand Betrayal.  Word is that nothing will be announced until after Inouye’s funeral, which is next week.

A minor note: if Abercrombie actually DID nominate someone before the end of 2012, I’m pretty sure that person would have seniority over those newcomers entering in the new session [like Elizabeth Warren]. Might only be for a day or two, but in the tradition-obsessed Senate, every minute counts.