Mr. Schatz goes to Washington

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (
SUBHEAD: Hawaii Lieutenant Governor, and Obama party operative, Brian Schatz to fill Inouye's senate seat as Abercrombie's agent in Washington.

By Staff on 26 December 2012 for Pacific Business News -

Image above: Hawaii Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (L) speaks in Honolulu on Wednesday with Gov. Abercrombie (R). From (

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz has been appointed to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat held by Daniel Inouye for the past 50 years.

“I’m humbled and honored by this opportunity,” Schatz said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the state capitol announcing the appointment.

Schatz added that no one can fill Inouye’s shoes, but “we can try to walk in his footsteps.”

White House officials said Schatz will fly to Washington Wednesday night with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One.

The press conference was held just hours after the Democratic Party of Hawaii selected Schatz, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina, deputy director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, as the three finalists for the seat that became vacant following Inouye’s death on Dec. 17.

Hanabusa was Inouye’s choice to succeed him, but the decision was Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s to make.

“I make this decision with full confidence that Brian’s appointment is in the best interest of the state of Hawaii and the nation,” Abercrombie said in a statement about his pick. “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.”

Schatz said he will most likely be sworn in Thursday as Congress reconvenes and negotiations with President Barack Obama continue in an attempt to avert the fiscal cliff before Jan. 1.

When asked his view on the fiscal cliff — the tax hikes and automatic cuts in defense and other spending if the government can’t cut $1.2 trillion in spending over 10 years — Schatz said: “I should talk to the lead negotiators.” He said he also would talk to Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Abercrombie praised the other names on the list, and said that one reason he did not select Hanabusa is because she holds an important position on the House Armed Services Committee. Another reason was that if Hanabusa was appointed, Hawaii would need to hold a special election to replace her.

Schatz will face his first election as U.S. senator in 2014, and he said he plans on running for a full six-year term at that time.

“I want to congratulate Brian Schatz on his selection to succeed Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in the [U.S.] Senate,” Hanabusa said in a statement. “I also want to thank the Democratic Party’s State Central Committee for their work in assembling the list of nominees, and Gov. Abercrombie for selecting quickly from that list.

“Having served as chair of the Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee when the succession law was passed, I fully respect the process and the governor’s right to appoint a successor.”

Senator-elect Mazie Hirono, who is replacing retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, said in a statement that she looks forward to working with Schatz and taking action to avoid the fiscal cliff.

“It is imperative that Hawaii’s voice be represented in the [U.S.] Senate,” she said.

Schatz’s appointment means that Hawaii State Senate President Shan Tsutsui, D-Wailuku-Waihee-Kahului, can decide whether he wants to be lieutenant governor.

“I plan to discuss this prospect with the governor and my family before making a decision,” Tsutsui said in a statement.

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