Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) chose Hawaii Lieutenant Gov. Brian Schatz (D) to fill the seat left open by the death of longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), deciding against Inouye’s deathbed wish that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) succeed him. The move comes as a surprise — most expected Abercrombie to honor Inouye’s wish, delivered in a letter to the governor on the day of his death earlier this month. Abercrombie chose Schatz over Hanabusa and former congressional candidate Esther Kia’aina (D), the options presented to him by the state Democratic committee.
He said that Inouye’s wishes had been “taken into account fully” but that “no one and nothing was preordained” and he wanted to make sure to act in the best interests of the state, especially in helping Hawaii’s suddenly youthful congressional delegation build up seniority in Congress as quickly as possible. Abercrombie’s move could trigger some backlash within the party, possibly resulting in a primary challenge for either him or Schatz. Both will face the voters in 2014.