In a letter delivered just hours before his death, Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, wrote to Gov. Neil Abercrombie asking him to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to succeed him.
An Inouye aide described this as the senator’s “last wish” as a political figure. Inouye was a larger-than-life figure in Hawaii, suggesting that his dying request could carry tremendous weight with Abercrombie, a former 10-term House member. The Inouye endorsement should make Hanabusa the favorite for the seat.
Hanabusa was elected to her second House term in November. Her first attempt to win the 1st District House seat was not successful because of a three-way special election to fill Abercrombie’s unexpired term. Abercrombie resigned early to run for governor in 2010, and Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case split the Democratic vote, allowing Republican Charles K. Djou to prevail.
Case was an acknowledged political foe of Inouye, dating back to when Case challenged Sen. Daniel K. Akaka in the 2006 Democratic primary. When Case faced off against now Sen.-elect Mazie Hirono in the 2012 Democratic primary for the chance to succeed Akaka, Inouye made no secret of his displeasure with Case.
Under Hawaii’s election laws, Abercrombie’s choice will serve until after a special election in November 2014. If Hanabusa is elevated to the Senate next Congress, Hawaii would be one of four states to have an all-female Senate delegation, joining California, New Hampshire and Washington.