Inouye’s widow endorses Hanabusa against Schatz

The widow of Hawaii senator Daniel K. Inouye has endorsed Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa's bid against Sen. Brian Schatz (D), a move she said honors one of the late senator's "last requests."

"Shortly after she was elected President of the Hawaii State Senate, Dan recognized that Colleen was more than capable of succeeding him and he began to mentor her," Irene Hirano Inouye said in a statement. "His last wish was that Colleen serve out his term because he was confident in her ability to step into the Senate and immediately help Hawaii. I am honoring one of his last requests, and look forward to supporting Colleen on the campaign trail."

Daniel Inouye died last December at the age of 88. Shortly before he passed away, Inouye sent a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D), indicating that his last wish was for Hanabusa to replace him.

Abercrombie declined to grant the senator's wish, instead appointing Brian Schatz, his lieutenant governor, to fill the seat. The move angered the late senator's allies. On Thursday, Hanabusa announced she would run against Schatz next year.

Schatz said in a statement Friday that he recently spoke with Irene Hirano Inouye about her plans to endorse Hanabusa.

"I realize it may be unusual to comment on an opponent's endorsement, but I have great respect for Irene Inouye and her husband's legacy to Hawaii. When news of Rep. Hanabusa's candidacy broke over a week ago, I phoned Mrs. Inouye to express my respect for her and the late Senator. Mrs. Inouye very graciously informed me she would be supporting Rep. Hanabusa's candidacy," said Schatz.

"Brian called me last week after news of Colleen's intention to enter the race became public. He politely asked if I would remain neutral or endorse him," said Irene Hirano Inouye, in a follow up statement.

The Fix recently took a closer look at the Schatz-Hanabusa matchup, which will be another race-tinted showdown in a state with a history of primaries being split along racial lines.

Updated at 3:10 p.m.

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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Sean Sullivan | May 3, 2013