POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 18, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 10:15 a.m. HST, Dec 18, 2012
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye urged Gov. Neil Abercrombie to appoint U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his successor, according to Inouye's spokesman.
Inouye's recommendation was delivered in a letter to Abercrombie on Monday morning, before the senator succumbed to respiratory problems at a Bethesda, Md., hospital.
The governor said the letter was "personal," and while he spoke publicly about some of its contents, he did not discuss the recommendation.
"I cannot speak and will not speak for the family, but I believe it's important for everyone to know that the senator's thoughts and words were lucid and … available to us right up until the very last minute," Abercrombie said at a state Capitol news conference.
"It was not his faculties that were impaired at all. It's just that physically he gave everything."
Peter Boylan, Inouye's spokesman and deputy chief of staff, said it was the senator's wish that Hanabusa take his place.
Inouye had grown fond of Hanabusa in the past several years, and his preference for her as successor was known in political circles.
Political analysts have said that Hanabusa, 61, a Democrat who represents urban Honolulu's 1st Congressional District, would be considered the front-runner to replace Inouye. Another Democratic contender is Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, 40.
Hanabusa and Schatz on Monday declined to discuss politics and instead remembered Inouye.
Hanabusa described him as a mentor who never wavered in his commitment to put the needs of the people of Hawaii above his own.
"But beyond his well-deserved professional accolades, I am proud to have called Dan Inouye a friend and a mentor," she said in a statement. "His professional generosity and personal kindness have meant the world to me. I attribute a great deal of the success I have enjoyed to his willingness to share with a smile, and to guide with a gentle word. I will miss him, and I join our state and our nation in mourning the loss of a great American and a wonderful man."
Schatz said Inouye never lost his sense of aloha.
"We are all heartbroken to learn of the passing of this American hero," he said in a statement. "His legacy of self-sacrifice, service and aloha will never be replicated. We mourn his passing and offer our love and support to the Inouye ohana, his dedicated staff and to all those who have been touched by this great man.
"For all of his accomplishments, he never lost his sense of aloha or his love for Hawaii."
Under state law, Abercrombie must choose a successor from three people recommended by the Democratic Party of Hawaii. The appointee will serve until voters elect a senator in 2014 to serve the remainder of Inouye's six-year term, which runs through 2016. Another election for a full six-year term would be held in 2016.
Dante Carpenter, Democratic Party chairman, said the party would likely move quickly to make recommendations. "We'll be looking at that forthwith," he said.
If Hanabusa is chosen, a special election would be held to replace her in the U.S. House. It is likely that several Democrats would be interested in the seat. Republicans could include former Congressman Charles Djou, who lost a rematch to Hanabusa in November.
Djou also would not discuss politics Monday. "There has been no more consistent or passionate advocate for the people of Hawaii for nearly 60 years," he said in a statement.
"Senator Inouye was an American hero and selfless public servant, and it was an honor to serve with him in Hawaii's congressional delegation."
If Schatz is appointed, state Senate President Shan Tsutsui (D, Waihee-Wailuku-Kahului) would be in line to succeed him as lieutenant governor. If Tsutsui declines, whoever is House speaker would be next.
Abercrombie declined to speculate about the appointment process.
"As to what will take place with regard to the days to come, and what is to transpire with regard to the senator's passing, all in good time. All in good time," the governor said. "Right now I think that Irene (Inouye's wife) has expressed the thought that I have, that I'm sure all of you have, that it is time now for us to prepare for and to say our goodbyes.
"Everything else will take its place in good order."