Urgent: Abercrombie ignores Inouye deathbed wish, picks Lt. Gov. Schatz over Rep. Hanabusa
Per Pergram-Capitol Hill
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) overrode the death-bed wishes of late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) today and appointed Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D) as the immediate successor to the open Senate seat.
Only hours before he died of respiratory failure last week, the 88-year-old Inouye penned a missive to Abercrombie, urging him to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to his seat.
A native of Ann Arbor, MI, the 40-year-old Schatz is slated to become just the sixth senator in Hawaii history. He formerly served in the Hawaii House of Representatives and chaired the Hawaii Democratic Party. He became the state’s Lieutenant Governor in 2010, running on the same ticket as Abercrombie. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress against now-Rep. and Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in 2006 after Rep. Ed Case (R-HI) ran for Senate. Voters elected Hirono to the Senate in November to succeed the retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI).
Late last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote to Abercrombie, asking him to appoint a successor “with due haste” to make sure Hawaii “is fully represented in the pivotal decisions” the Senate will make at the end of the year.
A total of 14 candidates emerged to succeed Inouye. They made their cases to the Hawaii Democratic party. Interestingly, Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) also appealed for the seat. Gabbard was just elected to succeed Hirono in the House after her move to the Senate. Gabbard won’t be formally seated in the House until January 3rd.
Of the 14, the Democratic party tapped three finalists: Schatz, Hanabusa and Hawaii’s Deputy Director of Land and Natural Resources Esther Kiaaina.
It is not clear when the Senate will formally swear-in Schatz. But it could come as early as Thursday. The Senate meets for legislative business at 10 am et Thursday with votes scheduled for 5:30 pm. There has also been speculation that Schatz could catch a ride to Washington aboard Air Force One with President Obama as he returns to Washington after spending Christmas with his family in his home state.
Hawaii’s four-person Congressional delegation dropped dramatically in seniority over the past few days. Inouye’s death, coupled with the retirement of Akaka and the move by Hirono to succeed him in the Senate, stripped the Aloha state of 95 years of Congressional service. The appointment of Schatz, combined with Hirono’s move to the Senate, the election of Gabbard and the re-election of Hanabusa to the House means Hawaii now has eight years of Congressional service among its four members.
Interestingly, Schatz will have Senate seniority to Hirono since he will presumably be swornin before she assumes her Senate seat next week.
Senior Producer for Capitol Hill