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Schatz throws hat into ring for Senate seat

By Derrick DePledge and B.J. Reyes


Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz said Thursday that he will apply for the appointment to replace U.S. Sen. Daniel Ino­uye, giving Hawaii Demo­crats a youthful option who could build seniority in the Senate over several decades.

Schatz, 40, said he would not comment publicly until after memorials for Ino­uye conclude on Sunday, but he did confirm his interest in being one of the three nominees the party's state central committee will forward to Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Inouye's personal appeal that Abercrombie name U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana­busa, D-Hawaii, to succeed him has dominated the discussion about the appointment process over the past few days. But several Demo­cratic insiders, speaking privately, say that while Hana­busa, 61, is the front-runner, her selection is not a foregone conclusion.

"No one can take the place of Senator Ino­uye, and we all continue to mourn his loss," Schatz said in a statement. "On December 28, the Demo­cratic Party of Hawaii will meet and decide upon three names for the governor to consider for appointment to the United States Senate. I will apply to be considered for this vacancy.

"I hope to make the case to the state central committee members that I should be one of the three names that the governor will ultimately consider."

Inouye asked Abercrombie in a personal letter delivered before he died Monday to grant his "last wish" and select Hana­busa, who had earned the senior senator's trust and would have been considered for the appointment even if Ino­uye had not made the request.

Hanabusa, who represents urban Hono­lulu's 1st Congressional District, also has precedent on her side. When U.S. Sen. Spark Matsu­naga, D-Hawaii, died in 1990, Gov. John Wai­hee appointed U.S. Rep. Daniel Akaka to fill the vacancy.

But some Democrats have privately expressed reservations about a Hana­busa appointment because it would trigger a winner-take-all special election to fill her seat. Former Congressman Charles Djou, a Republican, won a similar election in May 2010 with a plurality after Hana­busa and former Congressman Ed Case split the Demo­cratic vote. Hana­busa, however, was able to defeat Djou in the November 2010 general election to replace Abercrombie, who had resigned to run for governor.

Other Democrats are privately uneasy about the orchestrated campaign behind Hana­busa by some of Ino­uye's allies since the senator's death — one compared it to a "coronation" — and the pressure it has placed on the state central committee and Abercrombie.

Abercrombie told reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday that he feels any talk of who he might nominate is premature. "The plain fact is, when the choice for the senator's successor takes place, it will be the result of democracy in action," he said.

The governor said he would give "every weight" to Ino­uye's request but added that he did not want to preclude the work of the party's state central committee by indicating any sort of preference.

"I don't even know that Rep. Hana­busa's name will come forward," he said. "The central committee will take everything into consideration, I'm sure, including the senator's opinions and perspective.

"I have full confidence in the central committee, not only their ability and desire, but their capability of coming to a conclusion quickly and thoroughly, and that I'll be able to rely on that when those names come."

There are more than 75 members on the central committee.

The argument for Schatz, some Demo­crats say, is his potential to serve for several decades and eventually amass the seniority that is the currency of power in the Senate.

His appointment would not prompt a special election. Under state law, state Senate President Shan Tsu­tsui is the next in line of succession to the lieutenant governor's office, followed by House Speaker Calvin Say.

Schatz is a former Makiki state lawmaker and Demo­cratic Party of Hawaii chairman who was involved in President Barack Obama's campaign in the islands in 2008. He unsuccessfully ran in the Demo­cratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District in 2006.

Schatz was elected lieutenant governor in 2010.

"She's probably the leader in the clubhouse," one Demo­cratic strategist said privately of Hana­busa, using a golf metaphor. "But this isn't done."

The strategist also cited Abercrombie's contrarian streak. "Neil is Neil," the strategist said. "And he's ultimately going to have to decide what's best for the people of Hawaii."

Abercrombie had been willing to consider Schatz for a Senate appointment if Akaka had opted to step down early when the senator announced in March 2011 that he would not run for re-election, several sources said at the time.

But Akaka and his staff, who had heard the talk in Demo­cratic circles, said Akaka had no intention of resigning. Akaka made a point of publicly saying that voters should choose his replacement when he announced his retirement.

Abercrombie's appointee will serve until voters in 2014 elect a senator to fill out the remainder of Ino­uye's six-year term, which runs through 2016. The appointee will likely have the advantage in those elections.

In addition to Hana­busa and Schatz, Tony Gill, chairman of the Oahu Demo­crats and a labor attorney, and state Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point), chairman of the Senate Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee, have shown interest so far. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Monday.

"I do support the senator's wishes that Rep. Hana­busa be the next appointed individual. However, since the law is clear that there must be three nominees, I would be honored to be considered one of those other nominees," Espero said.

Many Democrats on the state central committee, even some who have clear preferences, want the application process to play out as intended, which is to screen nominees for the governor's consideration, not tip the scales toward a particular candidate. But the party's deliberations are inherently political, so it is impossible to remove outside influence.

"We need to have the process take care of itself," said Ed Hase­gawa, a retired educator who has volunteered for Case and Abercrombie campaigns and serves on the state central committee.

Jim Shon, a former state lawmaker who serves on the state central committee, saidthose on the committee take their decision very seriously.

"They don't feel that honoring Ino­uye translates as an automatic decision in favor of Colleen," he said. "Part of it is, we're not making the selection, we're making a list, which is a little bit different.

"And I think, for myself and others, we're looking at what three very strong, capable people should be on that list or could be on that list."

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MalamaKaAina wrote:
Who is Brian Schatz?
on December 21,2012 | 12:39AM
Anonymous wrote:
right, Schatz throws hat into political ring, and the ring throws it back at him, knocking him out! Schats does not have the requisite experience to work in D.C.,, just look at his record as Lt Governor, nothing got done, because there is nothing to do as Lt. Gov!
on December 21,2012 | 02:03AM
allie wrote:
true...a minor leaguer all the way
on December 21,2012 | 07:02AM
wiliki wrote:
I don't think that we should focus on young people because we have no work experience to go on-- just "potential". I'd rather let the voters decide that-- as we did in the race between Gabbard and Hannemann. How about adding a candidate to the list that will not stand for re-election? It'll be someone with a proven record that we can trust. That'll give everyone else an even chance to win the office at the next general election.
on December 21,2012 | 07:03AM
Opihipika wrote:
Mr. Schatz.....always remember what happened to Ed Case. Do you want the same treatment??? Be patient and wait your turn!
on December 21,2012 | 09:55AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I didn't know he had a hat.
on December 21,2012 | 01:44PM
agile wrote:
To Lt. Gov. Shatz on applying for Inouye's seat: I checked the weather report today and hell had not frozen over.
on December 22,2012 | 12:41PM
bender wrote:
A bad idea that shouldn't be allowed to happen.
on December 21,2012 | 05:11AM
lee1957 wrote:
When you're out of Shatz you're out of beer.
on December 21,2012 | 03:24PM
kinkyhobo wrote:
Schatz is young enough that if he could get in and manage to get re-elected, he could possibly hold that seat for 30 or 40 years and build up enough seniority in the Senate to strenghten the Hawaii delegations power in the long run.
on December 21,2012 | 12:44AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
is that you Stephen?
on December 21,2012 | 01:14AM
from_da_cheapseats wrote:
He won't get re-elected, because he isn't a heavy, not here, and especially not there. He isn't a heavy becasue he hasn't done anything hard. Hasn't been challenged. Managing Obama's campaign here isn't Anything. All the heavy lifting was in the mayor race. We don't know what he's like.
on December 21,2012 | 06:37AM
allie wrote:
well said
on December 21,2012 | 07:03AM
allie wrote:
lol...no way hon..those days are over
on December 21,2012 | 07:03AM
Allenk wrote:
So we won't be able to reap any benefits from his experience for the next 30-40 years? By then the first leg of the rail will be completed and he will have had ample time to lobby for funds to build the next leg of the rail to nowhere.
on December 21,2012 | 02:47PM
peanutgallery wrote:
This guy couldn't lead a cake sale.
on December 21,2012 | 01:28AM
agile wrote:
He could if he had step-by-step instructions...from a 4 yr old.
on December 22,2012 | 12:42PM
hukihei wrote:
Colleen Hanabusa is the most qualified person to be appointed to complete Sen Inouye's term. Obviously, Sen Inouye did not trust Neil to know this and hence the letter.
on December 21,2012 | 02:28AM
wiliki wrote:
Everyone can see her as a potential senator-- but then we will have an all-female delegation without balance to Congress. Wouldn't some party members not like this?
on December 21,2012 | 07:07AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Only the misogynists.
on December 21,2012 | 08:58AM
wiliki wrote:
A number of party committees have dual chairs-- male and female in caucuses-- why not also in the Congressional delegation?
on December 21,2012 | 03:25PM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Because it makes no sense to judget the worth of a person based on their gender. Pretty simple.
on December 21,2012 | 08:50PM
Mythman wrote:
Neil and Brian for Hawaii Nei - without being in the pocket of the special interests, making 21st Century Hawaii WORK!!!!!
on December 21,2012 | 04:03AM
McCully wrote:
What a weak field, Schatz and Espero. Is that the best the democrats got?
on December 21,2012 | 06:11AM
MakaniKai wrote:
Brian Schatz.....seriously? Dark days for the Nei! In the meantime in light of the shallow pool selection, Abs should consider Kaui Hill aka Bu La’ia or Bumby Kanahele. Can’t do worse - Hawaii is in a tailspin. Senator Inouye, God rest his soul represented Hawaii longer than I have been alive. For many including me his passing feels like the loss of a beloved uncle. But please remember that seat belongs to the people of Hawaii, not to be treated as a memorial to Dan Inouye. Happy Aloha Friday.
on December 21,2012 | 06:57AM
allie wrote:
well said...really pathetic
on December 21,2012 | 07:04AM
wiliki wrote:
The Party should look at non-active Democrats as well. For instance, perhaps General Shinseki should be contacted if he wishes to establish residence in Hawaii. He likes to visit his home town Kauai so often, he might as well live there.
on December 21,2012 | 06:58AM
Imagen wrote:
on December 21,2012 | 09:04AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I guess Brian is tryingg to separate himself from Neil!
on December 21,2012 | 07:02AM
eastside808 wrote:
Mike McCartney? Keith Amemiya? Brian Schatz has no record of accomplishment.
on December 21,2012 | 07:47AM
nonpolitic wrote:
Seniority means nothing without the ability to command the respect of your peers through action, foresight, leadership, trust, and most of all, the ability to get the things you say you're going to do, done. Of those thus far mentioned, it seems that the only one that has already been proven to possess these traits is Ms. Hanabusa. Lt. Governor Schatz is a nice, well-meaning young man, but he has never really been a true leader or accomplished spearheading and implementing any real public policy initiatives. Additionally, chairing a successful Obama campaign in Hawaii is tantamount to saying that he chaired the campaign to ensure that the sun will rise in the morning. Who realistically thought that Hawaii voters would vote against a native son? Being younger than the average politician shouldn't be the sole barometer by which selecting a U.S. Senator is done. Hawaii is at a critical juncture in time where we need strong congressional representation NOW, not only 30 years in the future. Sadly, with all that's going on in Congress right now, we can't take the chance on anyone who doesn't already know what to do. If the Democratic Party is so worried about Charles Djou winning a "winner take all" special election, they should seriously consider forcing their current stable of elected officials to, for once, eschew personal gain and the constant need to feed their inflated egos, and marshall their elected officals and party members to get behind a single, electable candidate for CD1. Otherwise, they'll be calling Charles Congressman Djou again. Personally, I do not look forward to doing that again.
on December 21,2012 | 07:55AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
"Who realistically thought that Hawaii voters would vote against a native son?" Please recall that Senator Inouye enthusiactically supported Ms. Clinton in the primary. Do you realistically think he would have done that if he was sure Ms. Clinton was going to lose?
on December 21,2012 | 09:01AM
nonpolitic wrote:
As I recollect, the Senator made the commitment to endorse Ms. Clinton well before Mr. Obama entered the race, and as such, refused to retract his endorsement even though there was significant political pressure applied to do so back home in Hawaii. To me, Senator Inouye did the right thing. He showed us, by example, what it means to keep your word in the face of adversity. In dealing with politicians for over 30 years, one thing that struck me about the "old guard" elected officials was that they were very reluctant to "give their word" when committing to something. But once given, they never went back on it . . . no matter what. Maybe this practice was rooted in the plantation/WWII generation, when your word was good enough and your honor was a closely held treasure never to be surrendered. I don't see that anymore from succeeding generations of politicians. Nowadays, they make all sorts of promises to everyone they meet, and many break more than they keep (rhyming not intended). Integrity is a commodity that has become more precious and even more scarce among politicians these days. If just half of them thought this way, I think we'd have a much better state and nation.
on December 21,2012 | 09:26AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Well said, and you may be right about Sen. Inouye, but he was visibly aggravated that others in the power structure here in Hawaii were jumping on board with Mr. Obama.
on December 21,2012 | 09:51AM
nonpolitic wrote:
That is probably true. However, such is the beauty of the democratic process, and I'm sure that deep down, he understood it. I would like to add that once the national convention was over and Mr. Obama was selected, the Late Senator placed his full support behindt Mr. Obama. Another trait of that generation . . . fight with all your might, but shake hands after the fighting is done.
on December 21,2012 | 10:50AM
GorillaSmith wrote:
Hanabubu and Schatzie are on the short list? If Abercrombie is going for comic effect, I nominate the esteemed statesman Rod Tam to join this select group.
on December 21,2012 | 09:59AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Everything connected to our Neil is short.
on December 21,2012 | 12:39PM
pgkemp wrote:
what a power hungry boy..........
on December 21,2012 | 11:03AM
entrkn wrote:
Brian Schatz and Tulsi Gabbard are clearly the best choices to take the US Senate seats and serve Hawaii really really well for a long long time... Hirono and Hanabusa can only hurt Hawaii and hold it back.
on December 21,2012 | 11:20AM
Allenk wrote:
There is something to be said for new energy and freshness. Whether it works in congress, we'll have to see.
on December 21,2012 | 02:51PM
loquaciousone wrote:
I'm wiling to bet that Neil will appoint his close friend and buddy mufi.
on December 21,2012 | 12:41PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
The big boys in DC will run circles around him.....
on December 21,2012 | 12:41PM
GorillaSmith wrote:
The RNC is praying Neil will name a flyweight like Hanabusa or Schatz but expect the DNC to lean heavily on him to go with someone more along the lines of an adult. Ed Case's and Mufi's names will surely be suggested.
on December 21,2012 | 01:21PM
tim5fl wrote:
I don't think I've heard anything so laughable in a long time. Way out of his Peter Principle.
on December 21,2012 | 01:00PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
My belief is that anyone interested in this temporary job needs to be able to hit the ground running. No time for OJT. That limits it to those who have held office in DC: Hanabusa, Djou, LIngle, Case, Abercrombie and as a long shot I might toss in Esther too since she did all of Dan(2)'s work anyway.
on December 21,2012 | 01:47PM
Changalang wrote:
Correct; appointing a freshly elected or re-elected incumbent due to be sworn in would be a tactical error on the Hawaii Democratic Party's part. Smart play is to put in a young capable that can be replaced by appointment; like an LG or State Senator. Opening up CD1 without Godfather Dan to insure a pre-determined Democrat winner could be risky indeed. Dan was omnipotent. A special election in CD1 would be the first blind test without the ever reliable control variable. Strategically, CD1 would be in play for the GOP to retake like Djou did. If Neil appoints Colleen and loses CD1 to any Republican; Democrats will blame and punish him for it in 2014 for his own re-election. Neil's safe play is to appoint Senator Schatz; President Obama's good friend and multi-Union favorite. Brian is solid. Best to leave the Hawaii GOP dead and buried rather than have to worry about a zombie from the wrong Party getting lucky again in CD1. Straight talk.
on December 21,2012 | 11:06PM
mrluke wrote:
Brian Who?!
on December 21,2012 | 02:15PM
Kapuna wrote:
President Barack Obama loyalist, Neil and Brian, Dan and Hanabusa campaign for Hillary against Obama, Obama needed a loyal senator from Hawaii to avoid being attacked by own senator. Obama won, Hilllary and her supporters lost. Obama eventually won each single precinct in Hawaii, despite Hanabusa campaigning against him. IS she out of touch with the people of Hawaii she wants to represent? Will she vote against the will of the people and in favor of big buck special interest groups?
on December 27,2012 | 05:48PM
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