Schatz will reportedly be sworn into office on Thursday, ensuring that his two-year term in Inouye's stead will begin in time for Senate votes on the "fiscal cliff" financial standoff. Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), who was tasked with selecting Inouye's successor, had been asked by Senate Majority Leader (D-NV) to do so before the end of the calendar year to maintain the Democratic Party's 53-47 advantage.
"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," Abercrombie said in his announcement, Hawaii News Now reported. "Brian Schatz will do us proud."
In a letter sent on Dec. 17, the day he died, Inouye asked Abercrombie to select Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to be his successor, a request the governor said he weighed before considering Hanabusa's role in the House of Representatives.
"Rep. Hanabusa occupies a key position on the House Armed Services Committee," Abercrombie said. "It's very vital to continue to have her position on the Armed Services Committee continue."
Another factor, he said, was that choosing Hanabusa would have required a special election to fill her seat in the House.
"While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor's decision to make," Hanabusa's chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas, told the Associated Press. "We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck."
Schatz will also become the state's senior senator when Congress reconvenes on Jan. 3, following the retirement of Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), who has represented the state for 22 years. Akaka will be replaced by Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
[Image by Kyle Nishioka, via Flickr Creative Commons]