HONOLULU — Sen. Daniel Inouye wanted Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to take his place in the Senate, according to various news outlets in Hawaii.
Inouye expressed his last wish in a note to Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie that was delivered on Dec. 17, the day the senator died at the age of 88.
The Hawaii Democratic Party will submit three names to the governor for consideration, but Inouye’s endorsement certainly gives Hanabusa the edge. All applicants must belong to the same party as the departing office-holder.
Writing “with a heavy heart,” Abercrombie said in a Dec. 18 letter to Democratic Party Chairperson Dante K. Carpenter, “We want to remember and be thankful for all of the aenator’s good works for the State of Hawaii and the nation. We will do that. However, the president and members of the 112th Congress are continuing their efforts to address fiscal and debt-reduction issues critical to the well-being of our state and the county …
“The people of Hawaii deserve to be fully represented in the debates and decisions the Senate will have on those matters in the coming days and weeks.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has urged Abercrombie to make a decision before the end of the year.
Inouye was elected to his ninth six-year term in November 2010. His appointed successor will serve at least until 2014, when the next election for the Senate seat will be held.
Hanabusa was first elected to the House of Representatives in November 2010 and was just re-elected last month. She previously served in the State Senate, where she was the first woman president.
Former Rep. Ed Case has also submitted his name for consideration. He was elected in 2002 to replace the late Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink. In 2006, he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka in the Democratic primary. In 2010, when former Rep. Abercrombie was elected governor, Case and Hanabusa ran for the vacant House seat and lost to Republican Charles Djou. Earlier this year, Case lost to Rep. Mazie Hirono in the Democratic primary for Akaka’s Senate seat.
Hirono was elected in November to succeed Akaka, who is retiring. This means Hawaii will be represented by two freshman senators.
Akaka is supporting Hanabusa as Inouye’s successor.
Former Honolulu City Councilmember Tulsi Gabbard was elected last month to take Hirono’s place in the House. If Hanabusa is appointed to the Senate, a special election will be held to fill her House seat.
Hawaii has not had two Japanese American U.S. senators since Inouye served with the late Sen. Spark Matsunaga, and has never had a female senator.