Today Hawaii’s governor Neil Abercrombie appointed his Lt. Governor, Brian Schatz, to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye.
In his press release, Abercrombie said
“As Lieutenant Governor, Brian has demonstrated all of the qualities Hawaii could ask for in a Senator: respect for our traditions and a strong sense of values, remarkably strong character and problem-solving capacities, and above all an abiding love for and commitment to the people of our state. Brian Schatz will do us proud.”
As provided by Hawaii law, Abercrombie chose from a list of three nominees provided by the Democratic Party: Colleen Hanabusa [currently a Congresswoman, and "named" by Inouye as his choice]; Esther Kiaaina, the deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, and Schatz.
Schatz is only 40 — perhaps a factor in Abercrombie’s chosing him over Hanabusa, who is 61 — and is a former state lawmaker and Democratic Party of Hawaii chairman. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 with Abercrombie.
Another factor in Schatz’s favor over Hanabusa may be that there would have to be an expensive special election to fill her House seat. The state recently — and grumpily — held a special election to fill Abercrombie’s House seat, when he resigned before the end of its term to jump-start his campaign for governor. Complaints still linger about the cost.
There’s also some griping by the Hanabusa camp and Inouye loyalists, whining that the Senator’s preferences should have been honored — i.e., that he should get to pick his own successor. It should be an interesting few months in the islands.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Schatz will fly to Washington on Air Force One with Obama tonight [Wednesday] and reportedly will be sworn in in the next few days, making him Hawaii’s “senior” Senator, outranking Mazie Hirono, who was elected in November to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka. Obama is clearly anxious to have the seat filled for the “fiscal speedbump” debate and possible action that will continue over the next week.
More on Schatz, from Abercrombie’s press release:
Before being elected Lieutenant Governor, [Schatz] served for eight years as the CEO of Helping Hands Hawai’i, one of Hawaii’s largest non-profit community social services organizations.From 2008 to 2010, Schatz was the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. He also chaired President Barack Obama’s campaign in Hawaii in 2008.
From 1998 to 2006, Schatz was a member of the State House of Representatives, representing the state’s 25th district. During this time, he served as the House Majority Whip, Chair of the Economic Development Committee, Vice-Chair of Water, Land and Ocean Resources, Vice-Chair of Consumer Protection and Commerce, and as a member of the Hawaiian Affairs, Higher Education, Energy and Environmental Protection, and Agriculture Committees.
Schatz was raised in Hawaii, and graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. He is married to Linda Kwok Schatz, an architect. They have a son and daughter.
Personally, I laughed wryly upon reading that Schatz graduated from Pomona,
which Obama attended. Both also went to Punahou School. Given a number of elements of Schatz’s history, I don’t think there’s much chance of his standing up to Obama as he careens towards the Grand Betrayal.
Photo by Hawaii County under Creative Commons license