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Neil Abercrombie ignores Daniel Inouye’s dying wish, picks Brian Schatz for Hawaii Senate.

Just as a thought experiment imagine what would happen if the following scenario played out…

  • A minority Republican Senator passes away.
  • Choosing a successor is the responsibility of his state’s (white) (Republican) governor.
  • The late Senator in question had formally made a request to the governor that a particular qualified individual (who also happens to be a minority) succeed him.
  • The governor then proceeds to ignore the dying wish of the late Senator, and instead chooses his (white) Lt. Governor.

The question before the board is, Just how big would the resulting media firestorm be, anyway? Large enough to detect from orbit?

Yes, probably. However, in this case all the players are Democrats: the state is Hawaii, the Governor is Neil Abercrombie (best-known for fumble-fingeringly extending birther fantasies for an extra two weeks or so), the Lt. Governor (and new Senator) is Brian Schatz (I never heard of him, either), the late Senator is Medal of Honor winner Daniel Inouye, and the slapped-in-the-face candidate that Inouye favored was Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Basically, what happened was that Hawaii pretty much requires that since Inouye was a Democrat, any successor would be chosen from among a list of three people presented to Abercrombie by the Hawaii Democratic party*. Abercrombie and Inouye apparently had… issues with each other, given that the latter tried to torpedo the former when it came to the 2010 gubernatorial election; I also suspect that there was lingering bad blood over the 2010 special election for HI-01, which was an entertaining prelude to the general shellacking that was the 2010 Congressional midterms.

At any rate: Abercrombie ignored Inouye, presumably because Inouye was safely dead and couldn’t do anything about it, and went with his Lt. Governor – who has, as near as I can tell, done virtually nothing worth commenting on**. Schatz will serve for two years, until a special election in 2014 that will be for the rest of Inouye’s term; the winner of that will then run again in 2016 for a full term. All of which is a rather potent argument for not dying in office of old age, which is a trick that I wish that Senators would start learning. It’s getting so you don’t dare breathe on them… but I digress.

I should note, by the way, that Colleen Hanabusa is a rather obnoxious liberal who has been tolerable in the House to this point because the Democrats generally don’t allow their minority members the ability or the access to be truly teeth-grating. So there is a certain argument to be made that the best thing for the Republic in this place is to install a replacement placeholder*** in the Senate who will spend the next half century waiting patiently for the actuarial tables to do their grim work. Fortunately, I’m not the one to have to make that argument to Hawaii Democrats who might be curious as to why Abercrombie picked Schatz over Hanabusa. Or possibly unfortunately: watching said Democrats’ eyes bug out at the cynicism involved might be worth it.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: I was being nice. Me not being nice would be me insinuating that Neil Abercrombie just didn’t want two Buddhists representing his state in the Senate…

*Which is pretty much how it works everywhere else, too: smart governors don’t particularly like to flip seats, on the grounds that it make electorates cranky. If, however, you want to change Hawaiian state electoral law then I recommend that you contact the Hawaiian Republican Senate Caucus: he’d probably love to hear from you – or, indeed, anybody at all.

**A tradition of his that hopefully will continue in the Senate for the rest of Schatz’s term.

***As a fighting man Daniel Inouye was an avenging Old Testament angel of the Lord. As a Senator he mostly made sure that Hawaii got its cut.

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