Gov. Neil Abercrombie, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, announces his decision. (Hawaii Governor’s Office)

HONOLULU – Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday announced the appointment of current Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the passing of Sen. Daniel K. Inouye.

“Today, I will inform the leadership of the United States Senate that I have appointed Brian Schatz as the next United States Senator from Hawaii,” Abercrombie said. “I make this decision with full confidence that Brian’s appointment is in the best interest of the State of Hawaii and the nation.

“As lieutenant governor, Brian has demonstrated all of the qualities Hawaii could ask for in a senator: respect for our traditions and a strong sense of values, remarkably strong character and problem-solving capacities, and above all an abiding love for and commitment to the people of our state. Brian Schatz will do us proud.”

The governor added: “These are challenging times for Hawaii. We are mourning the loss of Sen. Daniel Inouye, a leader who gave a lifetime of selfless service to our country. At the same time, this is an opportunity to build on the remarkable foundation Sen. Inouye laid. It is an opportunity to shape a prosperous and vibrant future for our state.

“In the U.S. House, Hawaii will benefit from the continued leadership of Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa as she keeps building on her service on the House Armed Services Committee that is so vital to our state. Without her in that capacity, we would have no one in the House or Senate serving in this critical position.

“In the U.S. Senate, we expect great things of Senator-Elect Mazie Hirono. She, like Sens. Inouye and (Daniel) Akaka, brings a lifetime of distinguished public service to this new role.

“Hawaii also awaits the dynamic promise of Congresswoman-Elect Tulsi Gabbard, representing a new generation of leadership, rooted firmly in the timeless traditions of Hawaii.

“With today’s appointment, I am confident Hawaii has the strongest, best-prepared congressional delegation to lead us today, and the strongest, most well-rounded congressional delegation for Hawaii in the years to come.”

On Dec. 6, 2010, Schatz was inaugurated as the state’s 11th lieutenant governor. Previously, he served for eight years as the CEO of Helping Hands Hawai’i, one of the state’s largest non-profit community social services organizations. From 2008 to 2010, Schatz was the chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. He also chaired President Barack Obama’s campaign in Hawaii in 2008.

From 1998 to 2006, Schatz was a member of the State House of Representatives, representing the 25th District. During this time, he served as the House majority whip, chair of the Economic Development Committee, vice chair of the Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee, vice chair of the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee, and a member of the Hawaiian Affairs, Higher Education, Energy and Environmental Protection, and Agriculture committees.

Schatz was raised in Hawaii, and graduated from Pomona College in Claremont. He is married to Linda Kwok Schatz, an architect. They have a son and daughter.

Fourteen Candidates

The Hawaii Democratic Party’s State Central Committee submitted to the governor three candidates out of 14 applicants for the vacant Senate seat: Schatz, Hanabusa and Esther Kiaaina, deputy director of the state Department of  Land and Natural Resources.

Other applicants included former Gabbard, who was elected to the House of Representatives last month to succeed Hirono, and former Rep. Ed Case.

In a note from his deathbed, Inouye asked that Abercrombie appoint Hanabusa.

In a statement, Inouye’s chief of staff, Jennifer Sabas, said, “Sen. Inouye conveyed his final wish to Gov. Abercrombie. While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the governor’s decision to make. We wish Brian Schatz the best of luck.”

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