Gabbard wants to be considered for Inouye’s Senate seat

Published On: Dec 24 2012 06:26:39 PM HST   Updated On: Dec 24 2012 10:58:32 PM HST

The decision on who will fill the late Sen. Dan Inouye's seat in Congress will be taken up Wednesday morning, as more than 70 members of the Democratic Party of Hawaii's state central committee vote on which three candidates to forward to Gov. Neil Abercrombie for his consideration.

The latest political heavyweight to express interest in Inouye's Senate seat is Congresswoman-elect Tulsi Gabbard, who won Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District with 76.8 percent of the vote.

"In the military, I learned that 'leadership' means raising your hand and volunteering for the tough, important assignments," Gabbard said in a statement issued late Monday. "Senator Inouye did that as a young man, and he inspired a generation of young soldiers like me. Now, it is our responsibility to step up, for the good of Hawaii. In that spirit, I place my name into consideration for the seat he filled so ably."

Others that have expressed interest in Inouye's seat include Lt. Governor Brian Schatz, former Congressman Ed Case, Department of Land and Natural Resources Deputy Director Esther Kia'aina, attorney Tony Gill, and state senators Will Espero and Donna Mercado Kim.

In a statement issued Sunday, Case said Hawaii faces a precarious situation on Capitol Hill due to Inouye's unexpected death on Dec. 17, and Sen. Dan Akaka's retirement. In 2006, Case unsuccessfully challenged Akaka in the Democratic primary, arguing it was time to begin building seniority in a new generation of Hawaii politicians.

"Our next Senator must also have the knowledge, experience and ability to work with different presidents and colleagues over the coming decades toward rebuilding national leadership and influence for our congressional delegation," Case said in his statement.

Kia'aina, who challenged Gabbard for the 2nd Congressional District, noted she has 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C.  She served as an intern for Inouye before rising to chief of staff for two different congressmen.

"With Senator Inouye's passing and Senator Akaka's imminent departure, it is important to ensure that Hawaii has the strongest representation possible in our nation's capital," Kia'aina said in a Sunday statement.

Kim believes Hawaii would benefit most from someone who is familiar with issues affecting both the county and the state. Kim served in the Honolulu City Council from 1984 to 2000, after serving in the state House from 1982 to 1984.

"I think I'm one of the few people that have county experience, and it's important that somebody in Washington knows the municipality," Kim told KITV4. "We need to have a delegation that's going to stand strong and tall for the people, and not going to be afraid to speak out."

However, weighing heavily over the process of picking Inouye's replacement is the late senator's final wish that Hanabusa succeed him in the Senate.  Inouye expressed his wishes in a letter delivered to Abercrombie's office on Dec. 17, the day of his death.

Whoever Abercrombie chooses to replace Inouye will serve in the Senate until 2014.  That's when voters go to the polls to decide on a replacement for Inouye until the end of his term in 2016.


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