HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On the day he died in December of 2012, Senator Daniel Inouye wrote a letter to Gov. Neil Abercrombie and reportedly asked that he appoint then-Congresswoman Elect Colleen Hanabusa to replace him in the U.S. Senate after his death.
Instead, Abercrombie rebuffed Inouye's request and appointed Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the vacant seat, saying that the late senator's wishes "were taken into account fully" but citing a desire to prevent the Democratic Party from possibly surrending Hanabusa's seat in the House to a Republican.
"I asked how best could we ensure that Hawaii remains strong in the long run, rebuilding the seniority of our Congressional delegation in Washington," Abercrombie said in December.
Following Hanabusa's official announcement on Thursday that she would indeed challenge Schatz for his senate seat in 2014, Irene Hirano Inouye, the late Senator Inouye's wife, said she intended to honor one of her husband's last requests and endorse the congresswoman in the election.
"I am pleased to endorse Colleen Hanabusa for the U.S. Senate," said Mrs. Inouye. "Colleen is an experienced legislator who has the skill set and passion to represent Hawaii and will deliver for people the way Dan did for over 50 years."
Inouye says that her husband saw potential in Hanabusa as a replacement and believed she was more than up to the task.
"Dan recognized that Colleen was more than capable of succeeding him and he began to mentor her," Mrs. Inouye said. "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."
In a statement released Friday morning, Senator Schatz said that Mrs. Inouye told him she planned on endorsing Hanabusa when news of her candidacy broke nearly a week ago.
"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," said Senator Schatz. "I told Mrs. Inouye that I understood her decision, and assured her that, as Hawaii's Senator, I will continue doing everything in my power to honor Sen. Inouye's memory and accomplishments."