Bad Blood May Mean Primaries for Hawaii Democrats

January 9, 2013

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s decision last month to appoint Brian Schatz to the Senate could unfurl divisive Democratic primaries for the seats of both men in 2014, including from within the congressional delegation.

How vulnerable either official is remains to be seen, but in a state where there is no lack of Democratic political ambition, the appointment to fill the seat of the state’s longest-serving senator is unlikely to be the last word on it.

“There is buzz that folks are going to get primaried, there’s no question about that,” a Hawaii Democratic source said. “But as of now, it’s just a rumor.”

Regardless of what happens in 2014, it’s clear Hawaii is in the midst of a generational shift in its politics.

Abercrombie opted against following the deathbed wishes of the late Democratic Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, who requested in a letter to the Democratic governor that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa replace him. Some Hawaii Democrats viewed Schatz’s appointment as Abercrombie ignoring the state’s iconic senator, who served in the chamber for 50 years, nearly as long as Hawaii has been a state. The perceived slight could inspire a legitimate challenge to either Abercrombie or Schatz — or both.

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