Politics

Abercrombie defied Inouye’s dying request

Abercrombie defied Inouye's dying request

Did Hawaii Governor Start Political

Civil War by Defying Inouye’s Dying Wish?

By John Gizzi

As Hawaii’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz took the oath of office as the newest U.S. Senator Thursday, it was the maintenance of tradition in the “world’s most exclusive club.” The dean of the Senate and Hawaii’s first Member of Congress after statehood, Democrat Daniel K. Inouye, died two weeks ago. Following the law for succession in most states, Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed close friend and fellow Democrat Schatz as only the seventh senator from the Aloha State since it joined the union in 1959.

But in terms of Hawaii politics, Abercrombie may have done nothing short of start a political civil war among his fellow Democrats.

As was widely reported, Inouye upon his deathbed had a note hand-delivered to Abercrombie requesting the appointment of Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) to his seat when it became vacant. Wednesday night, Abercrombie ignored the wishes of the venerable senator and instead named his understudy Schatz to the vacancy.

“It is all very easy,” Hawaii Republican State Sen. Sam Slom told Human Events Wednesday. “Schatz is former Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman. Abercrombie had a falling out with Inouye. Abercrombie and Schatz supported Obama (for President in 2008). Inouye and Hanabusa supported Hillary (Clinton).”

Slom added that “(i)f Hanabusa had been appointed,” there would have been a special election to fill her House seat and, in his opinion, “Republican Charles Djou probably could have won the seat in a special election, as he did in early 2010 (but lost in the general election that year to former State Sen. Hanabusa).”

Because of the overwhelming Democratic voter registration in Hawaii and the power of its maritime unions, a Democrat can expect to hold a Senate or House seat upon winning it. That is why there is always furious competition almost every time one of those seats in Congress becomes open.

Although she is not saying anything now, Hanabusa would surprise few if she decided to take on Schatz — the senator who got the appointment Inouye wanted her to have — in 2014 when an election will be held for the remaining two years of Inouye’s term.

For Hawaii Republicans, this clearly points to another opportunity for former two-term Gov. Linda Lingle, who lost a bid for Hawaii’s other Senate seat this year. The centrist Lingle would be in a stronger position after Democrats have waged a civil war among themselves — something Gov. Abercrombie may well have fired the first shot in last night when he defied Sen. Inouye’s dying wish.

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