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Abercrombie appoints Lt. Gov. Schatz to U.S. Senate

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has announced the appointment of current Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

“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,” Abercrombie said. “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,” he said.

The governor added: “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,” Abercrombie said. “Without her in that capacity, we would have no one in the House or Senate serving in this critical position. In the U.S. Senate, we expect great things of Senator-Elect Mazie Hirono. She, like Sens. Inouye and Akaka, brings a lifetime of distinguished public service to this new role.

“Hawaii also awaits the dynamic promise of Congresswoman-Elect Tulsi Gabbard, representing a new generation of leadership, rooted firmly in the timeless traditions of Hawaii,” he 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 said, “I’m honored to serve the people of the state of Hawaii. No one can fill Sen. Daniel K Inouye’s shoes, but we will all try to walk in his footsteps together. Thanks so much to everyone for the outpouring of aloha. I will work hard, and I won’t let you down.”

Following the announcement, Schatz indicated he will leave Wednesday evening Washington, D.C. and be sworn in Thursday so he will be available for Senate votes to avert the ‘fiscal cliff,’ which includes federal tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect next month.

On Dec. 6, 2010, Brian Schatz was inaugurated as the 11th Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawaii. Before being elected 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.

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.

Schatz, 40, was raised in Hawaii, and graduated from Punahou School and Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. He is married to Linda Kwok Schatz, an architect. They have a son and daughter.

The state Democratic Party earlier Wednesday had offered Abercrombie three names to select from, including Brian Schatz Colleen Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina.

Next in line to be lieutenant governor is Senate President Shan Tsutsui of Maui. However, Tsutsui has not yet said if he will accept the position.

According to published reports, 14 people, including one former Big Island lawmaker, applied for the vacant seat:

* Former U.S. Rep. Ed Case

* State Sen. Will Espero (D- Ewa Beach, Iroquois Point)

* Former Honolulu councilwoman and U.S. Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard

* Honolulu attorney Tony Gill

* Kihei, Maui resident Antonio Gimbernat, a one-time handyman’s apprentice / truck driver and former U.S. Senate candidate

* U.S. Rep. and former State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa

* Honolulu attorney Timothy Hogan

* Esther Kiaaina, deputy director of the state Land and Natural Resources Department

* State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D-Kalihi Valley, Moanalua)

* Kurt Lajala, instructor pilot for a defense contractor at Hickam Air Force Base and former United Airlines and Hawaii Air National Guard pilot

* Blake Oshiro, governor’s deputy chief of staff and a former state legislator

* Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz

* David Tarnas, who represented the North Kona and South Kohala district for four years in the 1990s and currently works in government affairs for a Waimea forestry and renewable energy company

* Earl Winfree, commercial pilot and former Honolulu City Council candidate

Mazie Hirono:

I look forward to working with him in the Senate — as well as Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Rep.-elect Tulsi Gabbard — to move Hawaii and our country forward. Together, we will build upon the foundations Sens. Inouye and Akaka laid out.

Hawaii Republican Party Chairman David Chang issued the following statement regarding the appointment of Schatz:

The Hawaii Republican Party would like to wish Brian Schatz well in his new role as Hawaii’s Senator, even though he lacks the legitimacy of an election and was selected counter to the final dying wish of Senator Inouye. The Democrat Party of Hawaii’s State Central Committee narrowed down the field of fourteen applicants and nominated Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, Deputy Director of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources Esther Kiaaina,and Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz. The Hawaii Republican Party wants to remind recently appointed Senator that he must always act in the best interest of all of Hawaii’s citizens. While the appointment of Congresswoman Collen Hanabusa would have required special election to fill her congressional seat, HRP was well prepared to field a candidate that would be a capable leader, and strong advocate for Hawaii. The extreme partisan politics of Hawaii Democrat Party serves as a reminder that a balanced two-party system is sorely needed. Governor Abercrombie has once again put partisan politics and power ahead of Hawaii’s people. This appointment reinforces Governor Abercrombie’s sporadic and inconsistent leadership.

Ed Case:

I congratulate U. S. Senator-designate Schatz on his appointment. I join all Hawai’i in wishing him only the very best, and will do whatever I can to ensure his success and that of our delegation in the challenging times ahead.

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