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PBS Newshour on the Hawaii senate vacancy

December 24th, 2012 · 32 Comments

Here’s the take of the PBS Newshour on Hawaii’s open senate seat, broadcast last night.


Let’s move to another state and Hawaii. Very dramatically, last week, Senator Daniel Inouye died. And in a letter written to the governor, who gets decide who picks his seat, he actually stated his preference about who he wants to succeed him.


There are a lot of interesting elements with this. And one thing, it actually is very similar to what happened when Teddy Kennedy passed away in Massachusetts. In fall 2009 — or actually in summer 2009, he sent letter to Deval Patrick saying basically that he really wanted them to change the law in Massachusetts so that somebody would be able to fill that seat during the critical time when they were debating health care reform.

And then somebody would run for the special election. Well, in Hawaii, basically, what Daniel Inouye said was, I really want someone to be able to fill my seat. And I really hope that is Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who has not been there very long. He’s very close to her. He said that he felt that she would represent him with fervor, represent the state with fervor and sort of be in his own mold.

And he said he respectfully requested that. What is interesting about this is Gov. Abercrombie, a former member of Congress himself, didn’t release that letter. The senator’s — the late senator’s office is the one who released that letter. There’s some political pressure going on and it’s essentially as they’re having this fiscal cliff negotiation, so that is why it mirrors 2009.

GWEN IFILL: Gov. Abercrombie, Shira, is it a slam-dunk that Colleen Hanabusa, who was on the dying man’s lips practically, gets this job or are other people still trying to figure a way in?

SHIRA TOEPLITZ: Well, what’s going to happen this week is the Hawaii Democratic State Central Committee is going to meet.

And they’re going to give, according to state law, the governor three names of people who he could appoint to the seat. As long as Colleen Hanabusa makes that list — and it is looking very, very likely that she will — the governor will most likely appoint her. It would be very difficult for the governor to ignore such a legend as Daniel Inouye’s last and final wish to appoint this woman to his seat.

Interesting take, although I don’t think that Gov. Abercrombie will feel locked in by the Senator’s recommendation.

But we’ll see very shortly.

Tags: Politics

32 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hawaiino // Dec 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Neil might as well be named Houdini at this point, he’s not “locked in” at all.
    Dan presumed too much, he ceded his moral authority with his (lack of) succession plan.
    His office over reached….and Colleen is too green for the position and too old for the

  • 2 Hugh Clark // Dec 25, 2012 at 7:12 am

    One of Neil’s strong suits is his sheer independence, even when he is wrong. I doubt he approves of the Inouye staff trying to force his choice.

    Colleen has never shown affection to serve the N-Isles in my view, treating us as a separate state during her short stay in Congress. She has failed the Inouye test of statewide distribution of resources and investment. She gets a very low grade for constituent service, treating N Islanders badly — much unlike Patsy Mink or Spark Matsunaga. (Of course, Patsy was a Maui girl and Sparky a Kauai boy. They had real statewide roots.)

    Even if appointed, she will face a stiff test in seeking this seat from the voters in 2014

  • 3 Bill // Dec 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

    If Blake Oshiro makes it to the final three, he would be quite a dark horse candidate that would allow Abercrombie to shake things up.

  • 4 Tim // Dec 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I can only guarantee one thing: If Colleen does not make the list or if Abercrombie does not anoint her, tempers will ignite and flare among Inouye/Colleen’s backers in Hawaii. Would not surprise me at all if Abercrombie received some lambast for not delivering Inouye’s *death wish*. Abercrombie is quite lucky Hawaii already elected its first female US Senator, or weak accusations of sexism would undoubtedly surface if he did not select Colleen.

    Full Disclosure: Go Schatz Go!!! Colleen lost all my support the second she connected with Mr Jeff Stone.

  • 5 rlb_hawaii // Dec 25, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Time for a new voice and perspective, particularly from the millenial/Gen Y generation that knows first hand the price of war. I hope Tulsi Gabbard is seriously considered for this spot.

  • 6 richard gozinya // Dec 25, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Age and ethnicity are in play here. Seniors vote, especially AJA seniors. They also influence a big chunk of the business sector. Ignore Senator Inouye’s dying wish at your peril Mr. Governor. The smart play is to appoint Hanabusa for the interim term and focus instead on 2014.

  • 7 rlb_hawaii // Dec 25, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Btw, merry Christmas to Ian.

  • 8 Andy Parx // Dec 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    How exciting? Election eve in December.

    There’s little or no way Neil is going to pick Hanabusa- he’ll use the excuse of tossing the special election to a Republican. Why should he? Who are they gonna put up against him in the primary if he doesn’t? Pretty thin bench.

    He’ll pick Oshiro or Schatz… assuming the committee lets him. Most committee members seem like machine guys who would put a potted plant on the list if Inouye asked. So all they have to do is pick Hanabusa and two names that Neil hates (easy to find- Neil wears his dislike for people on his sleeve). There’re apparently 14 on the list and five of them are “who?” I think more than a few put their names on the list for just this reason- they might “fluke” in by being an “I’ll show them” pick by either the committee or the governor. But that’s the only way Neil picks Hanabusa- if the other two are nobodys or worse- people who have pissed off (or on for that matter) Neil.

  • 9 tycoon // Dec 25, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Does this mean that Rod Tam has been getting phone calls in the night urging him to put his name on the list?

    If the Committee does select Hanabusa plus two candidates who are even more unacceptable in Neil’s eyes, and Neil picks one of the lesser two candidates out of spite, then it’s open season in 2014 if the public finds that candidate unacceptable as well. (Remember Eileen Anderson?) By that time, relatively young and independent candidates of various flavors might emerge to surf the wave of disgust among younger voters.

    After all, who are the local “public” among the younger generation? Everyone points out how almost all of the older generation of local Japanese turn out to vote, and how they vote in a block as the party hierarchy tells them to, so they have the elections in a lock. But in 2008 Inouye told them to vote for Hillary Clinton against Obama in the primaries, but Obama beat her locally with a two-thirds majority. If Inouye could not get out the juice in 2008, just imagine a young voting public without Inouye in 2014, after two years of some post-Inouye breathing room.

    Politicians might look at ethnic composition and demographic change without taking into consideration generational change within each so-called “ethnic group”. Because quite frankly many in the younger generation are not ethnic as we might have once understood that term, although they might look it. That’s how it is all over the world. For the old, its about heritage, for their kids and grand kids its more about hipness. (Blame it on Facebook.)

  • 10 jonthebru // Dec 25, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Merry Christmas all.
    I feel a young person would be better, someone under 50 if possible. Ideally an outer island focused person. Most importantly, someone not in the Congress at this time to prevent the republicons from gaining a seat in the Congress. I personally am not a Coleen Hanabusa fan, she is most definitely not an outer island person.
    It will probably be her though because politics defies logic.

  • 11 Jim Loomis // Dec 25, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Since you specifically mention coverage by the PBS Newshour of the late senator’s passing, I have to complain about their consistent mispronunciation of his name. Apparently, with the goal being consistency, the talking heads all got together prior to air time and agreed they would call him EE-no-way. For heaven’s sake! I expect more from those people!

  • 12 cwd // Dec 25, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    As a member of the State Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawai1, I can tell you that I have been contacted by phone, text, and e-mail messages by almost all of the major candidates although I did receive an e-mail from one of Tulsi Gabbard’s supporters.

    As of this moment, I plan to plunk for NJB although I might also vote for two others as well.

  • 13 ULU // Dec 25, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    I love the mangled syntax but then I don’t have to write to a deadline:

    “Sources said Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz remains the candidate most likely to be chosen by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to replace Inouye, who died Dec. 17, in spite of Inouye’s request for U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him.”–we have a choice?


  • 14 Hawaiino // Dec 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I didn’t really understand your email. Are you saying the email from a Tulsi supporter was unique, and you only expect to hear from the candidates themselves? Who is NJB? The initials don’t seem to match any persons name, is it an acronym?

    If you can, what system of voting will the Central Committee use? Is it codified or chosen by the Chair or a smaller group?
    Do you think the process will survive a challenge to it’s constitutionality? Theres a very interesting discussion on this subject on the Inverse Condemnation blog. Lingle certainly was a consequential governor, with many serious consequences like this one.

  • 15 cwd // Dec 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I received e-mails, phone calls and texts directly from ten people of the 14 to be considered tomorrow. I also received well over three dozen phone calls from their supporters; however, I only received one very long e-mail from a Tulsi supporter rather than anything from her directly.

    NJB are not the someone’s initials but represent a very positive description in a particular environment in which I grew up.

    The gubernatorial selection process is a state law while the nominee process is done internally within the various political parties according to their own rules.

  • 16 Hugh Clark // Dec 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Amen, Jim Loomis. Inouye’s name has been mangled by taking heads, I hope his spirit seeks revenge.

  • 17 richard gozinya // Dec 26, 2012 at 9:08 am

    NJB is often used to refer to Nice Jewish Boy.

  • 18 zzzzzz // Dec 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Unfortunately, losing Oshiro would once again shake up Abercrombie’s administration.

  • 19 zzzzzz // Dec 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Has Tulsi Gabbard every served out a term to which she was elected?

  • 20 Tim // Dec 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    SA: Hawaii Democrats today recommended U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz and deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Esther Kiaaina to replace the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye in the Senate.
    Gov. Neil Abercrombie is expected to make the appointment soon after he receives the names so the new senator can be sworn in to vote on the fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January.

  • 21 Andy Parx // Dec 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I know- what was with that EE-no-ay? They all did it on the mainland for decades.

  • 22 compare and decide // Dec 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    That is the correct way to pronounce Inouye in the Japanese language. The national media do not take into account that Hawaii has an Americanized pronunciation of names.

  • 23 Tim // Dec 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm


  • 24 Hawaiino // Dec 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Yes, the “NJB” is the next senator…and a different domino sequence is catalyzed.
    Can you see Calvin and Neil seeing eye to eye?
    Interesting 2014 shaping up…

  • 25 Hawaiino // Dec 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    BTW cwd,
    Now that its over what was the system / rules used to determine the nominees?
    I’m curious as to how many applicants could have been considered in the Inouye faction of the Party?
    I like the choice of Schatz…I hope that all of the current delegation stay in their places and establish some expertise/ seniority before their ambitions propel them to venture to the next level.
    I’m talking to you Coleen and Tulsi…prove yourselves in the House, we need your best efforts.

  • 26 cwd // Dec 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Anyone who is a member of the Democratic Party of Hawaii for at least six months and has not been censured for acting against the Party’s rules, positions, and platform could apply. Fourteen people did so. At least five others decided not to apply for a variety of reasons.

    All applicants provided a CV or resume plus a written set of statements about what they feel are the most important issues facing Hawai`i and the United States.

    All applications had to be received by 5 pm on Monday, December 24, and were vetted as to their membership. The papers were sent out later that evening.

    I printed them out and carried them with me to read between the Diamond Head Classic Basketball Tournament games yesterday at the Stan Sheriff Center at UH-Manoa.

    In addition to the members of the State Central Committee, the public as well as the media met this morning at the Party headquarters and listened to each of the applicants.

    Several applicants as well as Committee members called in by phone or used computer technology because they could not be there in person.

    Then everyone not authorized to vote left the facility.

    For approximately 40 minutes, about 30 members spoke up on behalf of the candidate(s) they supported, Perhaps as many as six also addressed their concerns about voting for several of the candidates.

    Yes, I spoke on behalf on Brian Schatz and briefly described his three major areas of concern: the environment, social justice matters, and human services.

    Then the Secretary went through the members alphabetically who orally stated for whom they were voting. Most of them voted for three applicants although I, along with four others, only voted for one or two of the candidates.

    Then, the two Democratic Party of Hawaii staff members with several SCC members watching tallied up the votes. The top three were announced and their names were sent to the Governor.

    The process was completed around 10:30 am – sorry I didn’t look at my watch, but I was back at my office in Kailua shortly before noon.

    There were about a dozen media people outside the DPH office. Although we had been ordered not to announce the decision, someone posted the three names within minutes on a Facebook page.

    Not me!! I don’t do Facebook. I didn’t even tell my SigOth what the results were although he called me about ten minutes later to say that the results were on the Breaking News section of the Star-Advertiser.

    Abercrombie had stated yesterday that he would announce his selection this afternoon. Shortly before 1 pm, I received an e-mail and a telephone call stating that the Governor would be holding a press conference at 2 pm.

    As soon as I finished my work task, I immediately drove back into town and arrived at the Capitol about 1:40 pm.

    To summarize – the process was open.

    Brian and his family will be flying to Washington, DC this evening with President Obama. Brian will be sworn into office tomorrow about 8 am Hawai`i time.

    However, confirm the time later on this evening if you want to watch it live on one of the news channels.

    Brian’s top two priorities are Native Hawaiian issues and climate change in terms of its long-term impacts on the world. Climate change issues are what keep me going and going and going.

    Obviously, he’ll be working on fiscal issues plus he will be collaborating with the other three members to address the wide range of concerns our Congressional Delegation will be facing over the next two years.

    Mahalo to my SCC colleagues for supporting Brian and Double Mahalos to Neil Abercrombie.

  • 27 Bill // Dec 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Well, the fact that Schatz is flying out on Air Force One speaks volumes as to who the White House preferred. This can only be interpreted as a good thing. Flying back to D.C. under the wings of the President — we couldn’t have hoped for a better result.

  • 28 charles // Dec 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    The pundits were wrong on this one, obviously.

  • 29 Hawaiino // Dec 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Schatz was not, unambiguously, an Abercrombie man. He was, clearly, an Obama man.
    Anyone who reported that Hanabusa was a the favorite didn’t know Neil. Remember, his Mother “stamped her shoe” when faced with authority, and he is his Mothers son.

  • 30 Frankie's Market // Dec 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Neil didn’t rely on the support of Inouye to get to where he is today. Two years ago, the late senator didn’t provide much help to Abercrombie in his primary election faceoff against Mufi, despite the two serving together in DC for a couple of decades. And despite this, Inouye’s chief of staff expressed being “very disappointed” that Neil didn’t heed her boss’ dying wish? Talk about being tone deaf to the reality of the situation.

    Even if the rumors are true about Inouye’s faction dropping hints that Hanabusa would come home to run against Abercrombie in ’14 if she wasn’t appointed senator…. the SCC vote tally makes it clear. The Democratic Party’s old guard no longer calls all the shots and any “threats” that they might have made towards Neil in regards to his upcoming re-election campaign is about as scary as a toothless dog.

  • 31 Rlb_hawaii // Dec 27, 2012 at 4:24 am

    This ain’t a sports blog but rarely have I been as tantalized and frustrated by a UH men’s basketball team as this one. If only we had a true point guard!

  • 32 mako // Dec 27, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    How many of these elderly voters will be around as time passes, even in a couple of years from now? One could argue that their number and influence waned as far back as Lingle becoming governor, which at the time was unthinkable.

    This is just one of the colossal changes that is taking place not just in Hawaii, but in the world. Inouye is no longer here, but the federal money is no longer there either.

    There is much talk about Hanabusa and Hirono being in office for 25, 30 years. Anyone who has ever gotten cancer or divorced or laid off, or had that happen to someone close to them, knows that stuff happens. Life throws curve balls. In fact, we all know that. But when it comes to politics, we forget that. Hirono and Hanabusa might only be in office for five or ten years, or even one or two years. In fact, the same is true of Gabbard and Schatz. Our thinking is stuck on an endless treadmill. Everything is changing except the way we think.

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