Inouye’s Legacy in the Hawaii Special Election #HISEN

Inouye's legacy lives on with his staff. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Inouye's legacy lives on with his staff. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted June 25, 2013 at 6:00am

There is no question that the Inouye name will have a presence in next year’s Hawaii Senate special election; the only question is how much it will affect the race.

Irene Hirano Inouye, the widow of the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, endorsed Rep. Colleen Hanabusa in the Democratic primary back in May. And on Monday, Inouye signed her name to an EMILY’s List email asking for donations for Hanabusa’s bid against appointed Sen. Brian Schatz.

“I have full confidence that Colleen will serve Hawai’i in the way the people deserve — with honorable leadership and continued respect,” Inouye said in the email. “This is not the time for on-the-job-training.”

Meanwhile, Peter Boylan, a former deputy chief of staff to Inouye, said last week that he would be helping Hanabusa’s campaign as a spokesman. And the Honolulu Civil Beat reported Monday that former Inouye Chief of Staff Jennifer Sabas will also help Hanabusa’s campaign.

The primary next year will likely be highly competitive, and Schatz has picked up some major endorsements of his own. He announced last week the support of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, a 42,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

While the Inouye legacy lingers over the race, the Schatz and Hanabusa division goes back a decade. The two were on opposite sides of the Obama-Clinton presidential primary in 2008 and faced off in a primary for the 2nd District in 2006.

In December, Inouye sent a letter from his deathbed to Gov. Neil Abercrombie asking that he appoint Hanabusa to fill his seat until November 2014. A special election will be held then to serve out the remaining two years of Inouye’s term.

Instead, Abercrombie announced on Dec. 26 the appointment of Schatz, then the lieutenant governor, who flew on Air Force One to Washington, D.C., that night. Schatz was joined in the Senate a couple weeks later by newly elected Democratic Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.