HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii says she plans to run against fellow Democrat and incumbent U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in 2014, setting up a primary battle between two of the state’s four federal lawmakers.
Hanabusa told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that she believes Hawaii voters didn’t really have a chance to weigh in when Schatz was appointed to replace longtime Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died in December. In selecting Schatz, Gov. Neil Abercrombie bucked the wishes of Inouye, who sent the governor a letter just before he died saying his last wish was to have Hanabusa appointed to replace him.
“This is an opportunity and I feel the people have not had the chance to speak,” Hanabusa said. “We are going to afford them that opportunity.”
Hawaii’s primary is Aug. 9, 2014. The winner between Schatz and Hanabusa would then need to win a general election against a Republican or other opponents, though no other major candidates have declared themselves in the race.
Hanabusa said that while she disagrees with Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s pick of Schatz, then his lieutenant governor, she acknowledges it was his decision to fill the seat.
“That doesn’t then somehow say that Brian is entitled to that seat and that he is an incumbent in the true sense of the word,” Hanabusa said.
Schatz’ campaign spokesman Bill Meheula said in a statement that the race will be about the kind of future Hawaii wants for its people and next generation.
“We look forward to sharing the Senator’s work and vision for Hawaii, and we welcome Rep. Hanabusa to the race,” Meheula said.
Earlier Thursday, the campaign announced endorsements of Schatz from the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Hanabusa says Hawaii’s delegation became younger after Inouye died and that she has the most experience of any candidate.
Hanabusa says Inouye’s letter to Abercrombie endorsing her was a high compliment that came after years of conversations she had with Inouye about succession and the right time for her to move from the House to the Senate.
The 2014 race will determine who holds the seat the next two years, the final run of Inouye’s original term. The seat will be up for election again in 2016.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Schatz had $1 million in campaign cash as of March 31, compared with nearly $249,000 for Hanabusa. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to back Schatz.
Hanabusa said she doesn’t think her Senate run will cost Democrats a seat in the House. Hawaii voters are heavily Democratic.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia