Brian Schatz and Neil Abercrombie (file photo courtesy Sierra Club)
Brian Schatz and Neil Abercrombie (file photo courtesy Sierra Club)

Just hours after receiving a list of three candidates from Hawaii’s Democratic Party to replace U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the appointment of his Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to the position.

Inouye, 88, died on Monday, December 17, and his final wish was that U.S. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa would replace him, and he sent a letter to the governor to that effect. Hanabusa, Schatz and Abercrombie’s deputy director Esther Kia’aina were on the short list, but Abercrombie selected Schatz over Hanabusa.

“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. 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.

“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.”

The governor said: “These are challenging times for Hawaii. We are mourning the loss of Sen. Daniel Inouye, a leader who gave a lifetime of selfless service to our country. At the same time, this is an opportunity to build on the remarkable foundation Sen. Inouye laid. It is an opportunity to shape a prosperous and vibrant future for our state.

“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,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “Without her in that capacity, we would have no one in the House or Senate serving in this critical position.

Schatz will fly with President Barack Obama tonight on Air Force One to Washington DC and be sworn in to office on Thursday, December 26. He will be sworn in ahead of newly elected U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, making him Hawaii’s senior senator by just a matter of days. Hirono will be sworn in on January 3.

“In the U.S. Senate, we expect great things of Senator-Elect Mazie Hirono. She, like Senators Inouye and Akaka, brings a lifetime of distinguished public service to this new role,” Abercrombie said. “With today’s appointment, I am confident Hawaii has the strongest, best-prepared congressional delegation to lead us today, and the strongest, most well-rounded congressional delegation for Hawaii in the years to come.”

Schatz has served as Lt. Governor since December 2010 as the 11th Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaii. Two years prior, he was the chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii and chaired Obama’s campaign in 2008.

From 1998 to 2006, Schatz served in the state House of Representatives, representing the state’s 25th district.

Schatz is from Hawaii and is married to Linda Kwok Schatz, an architect. They have two children.

Schatz said he is humbled by the opportunity. His appointment will run until 2014. He will run for re-election to the U.S. Senate at that time.

Hanabusa issued her own statement today, saying:  “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.”