Will Abercrombie and Schatz face political fallout from Inouye replacement?

Will Gov. Abercrombie face any fallout for rejecting U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye's dying wish to appoint U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him? And could U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, who took the oath of office Thursday, face a chilly reception in the U.S. Senate?

Those are several of the questions Hawaii News Now posed to two political analysts Thursday.

Some people believe the line between the Abercrombie and Inouye factions of Hawaii's Democratic Party will grow wider after Abercrombie's decision to tap Schatz for the U.S. Senate seat.

"I think there has always been a rift," said Hawaii Pacific University Professor John Hart, a political analyst. "I think what we're seeing now is it coalescing between a group behind Congresswoman Hanabusa and newly appointed Senator Schatz."

"I think we are going to have different forces now fighting for control of the leadership of the party," Hart said.

Political analyst Dan Boylan said, "Sure, there's factionalism, but as always happens in the Democratic Party, factionalism in this state, it gets decided at the polls.  The voters will decide."

Can Abercrombie expect a strong challenge for re-election from Hanabusa, now that he didn't pick her as Inouye's successor?

Sources said since Abercrombie became governor in 2010, he has been worried about Hanabusa challenging him in 2014.

"And in that regard, the governor might have been politically smarter to appointed Hanabusa for his own selfish reasons," Boylan said.  Such a move would have meant Hanabusa would most likely have remained in the U.S. Senate, and not set her sights on the governor's chair.

Boylan said it's unclear whether Hanabusa or anyone else would be able to successfully challenge Schatz for the U.S. Senate in two years.

"To say that somehow the Inouye faction is going to be able to sustain their interest in getting revenge, if you will, or defeating Brian, I think that's hard to say," Boylan said.

Boylan noted that Schatz had a strong statewide campaign organization in 2010, and as former state Democratic Party chairman, he has many political contacts statewide and on the mainland.

How will other senators react to Schatz getting the job when they know Inouye wanted Hanabusa instead?

Hart said Hawaii could be affected by senators' response to Schatz, in the chummy, old-boys-network atmosphere of the U.S. Senate.

"There might be some plum committee assignments that would have gone to Hanabusa because of the Inouye connection that may not go to Senator Schatz.  We will have to see," Hart said.

Boylan said while some people may be upset at Abercrombie and Schatz in the immediate aftermath of Inouye's death, their anger may lessen with the passage of time and the next election is nearly two years away.

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