Hanabusa vs. Schatz

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser website reported yesterday that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa will challenge Sen. Brian Schatz in the Democratic primary next year.

Schatz was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to replace the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who died last December. Reports surfaced at the time that Inouye had asked the governor to appoint Hanabusa to his seat.

The website quoted sources within the Hanabusa camp. Earlier speculation had said Hanabusa was trying to decide whether to challenge Schatz for the Senate seat or Abercrombie for the governorship.

Schatz was serving as Abercrombie’s lieutenant governor when he was tapped to fill Inouye’s seat. Hanabusa was elected to the House of Representatives from Hawaii’s 1st District in 2010 and re-elected last fall.

The primary fight will provide an interesting test to determine just who is the leader of the state’s Democratic Party. Abercrombie will presumably support his hand-picked choice – Schatz – while Hanabusa has long been associated with the traditional leadership as exemplified by Inouye and former Sen. Dan Akaka.

It can’t even be boiled down to generational warfare because while Schatz is 40 and Hanabusa is 61, Schatz’s backer and mentor – Abercrombie – is 74 years old.

So it will be interesting to see who the different elements of the state party back. If nothing else, Hanabusa’s decision to take on Schatz has livened up the 2014 election season.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.