Schatz is being challenged by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D) in what has become the most intense and personal Senate Democratic primary of 2014. Inouye's dying wish was that Hanabusa, his protege, succeed him in the Senate. But Gov. Neil Aberrombie (D) bucked the request by tapping Schatz. What has resulted is the latest episode of a longstanding divide in the Hawaii Democratic Party.
We sat down to chat with Schatz on Monday. For more on our interview, head over to Post Politics. Below is video of Schatz's "Five Questions" segment, followed by a transcript of our discussion edited for brevity and clarity.
1. What was the first thing you said to Barack Obama when you met him for the first time?
It was a very brief interaction. He came to a place called Keehi Lagoon to do a quick campaign stop -- I believe it was in 2008. I just thanked him for being in Hawaii. He had just gotten off the airplane. Since then, we've had more substantive interactions in the White House and elsewhere.
2. You've offered senators surfing lessons. Any takers?
Nobody's taken me up, but they are all very welcome to come. We'll take them to Waikiki, where the waves are small and the bottom of the ocean is sandy and it's very safe.
3. You were a philosophy major in college. Which philosopher would make the best senator?
Oh, goodness. Well, I think one of the Greek philosophers because they understood democratic government and they understood discourse. That might be the best question I've ever had from a journalist. I've got to get back to you on that one. But it's got to be one of the Greek philosophers because they were the originators of democracy.
4. Why is the Democratic Party in Hawaii so divided?
Usually the action is on the Democratic primary side in Hawaii and we've always been able to come back together after the primary election. But that's important. I think that's one of the reasons the Democratic Party in the state of Hawaii is strong. We give people good choices and have vigorous debate.
5. Why should voters who want to honor Inouye's legacy vote for you?
I just want to say how much I revere Sen. Inouye. He built modern Hawaii. He is really representative of what is best about Hawaii's values. My view is that my job in the Senate is to try to continue that legacy by working on the projects and the programs that mattered to him and therefore matter to Hawaii.