Gov. Neil Abercrombie picked Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz Wednesday to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the late Daniel K. Inouye. According to a White House official, Senator-designate Schatz flew to Washington with the president on Air Force One Wednesday night.
"Today, I will inform the leadership of the United States Senate that I have appointed Brian Schatz as the next United Sates Senator from Hawaii," said Abercrombie. "I make this decision with full confidence that Brian’s appointment is in the best interest of the State of Hawaii and the nation."
"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," said Abercrombie.
Sources with knowledge of the situation tell KITV4 News that Schatz was a finalist along with Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and state Department of Land and Natural Resources Deputy Director Esther Kia'aina.
In a letter to the governor, Inouye's final wish was for Hanabusa to take his place in the Senate.
Jennifer Sabas, Chief of Staff to former Senator Daniel K. Inouye:
"Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the Governor's decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck."
However, Abercrombie said, "In the U.S. House, Hawaii will benefit from the continued leadership of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa as she keeps building on her service on the House Armed Services Committee that is so vital to our state. Without her in that capacity, we would have no one in the House or Senate serving in this critical position."
Jennifer Sabas, the chief of staff to Inouye, said, "Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the Governor's decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck."
The Office of Elections says the lieutenant governor vacancy will be filled in the following order: President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, Director of Finance, State Comptroller, Director of Taxation, and Director of Personnel Services.
Shan Tsutsui is Senate president and the speaker of the House is Calvin Say.
Tsutsui released the following statement:
"Congratulations to the Lieutenant Governor on his appointment to fill Senator Inouye’s vacant seat in the United States Senate. I am confident that he will ably serve the State of Hawaii and honor the legacy that Senator Inouye has left behind. I understand that by law, as Senate President, I would be next in line to succeed Lieutenant Governor Schatz. I plan to discuss this prospect with the Governor and my family before making a decision."
Schatz was inaugurated as the 11th lieutenant governor for the state on Dec. 6, 2010.
Before being elected to the office of the lieutenant governor, he served for eight years as the CEO of Helping Hands Hawaii, one of Hawaii’s largest non-profit community social services organizations.
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's statement:
"I want to congratulate Brian Schatz on his selection to succeed Senator Daniel K. Inouye in the United States Senate. I also want to thank the Democratic Party’s State Central Committee for their work in assembling the list of nominees, and Governor 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."
"As a member of Hawaii’s Congressional delegation, I will continue to work to serve the people of our state, and support our delegation’s efforts."
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.
He will serve as senator until a general election in 2014.