A U.S. Senate race for the ages

Somebody asked why I didn’t mention Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz yesterday when I ran down the list of possible candidates for Daniel Akaka’s U.S. Senate seat.

Schatz has been included in the early speculation and he hasn’t said no, but a candidacy looks highly unlikely with initial polls showing that it would be an uphill battle for him.

The lieutenant governor wouldn’t have to resign to run for a federal office, but a weak showing in the Democratic primary would severely damage his personal political capital and could also be read as a repudiation of the Abercrombie administration.

Schatz has set himself up nicely to try to climb the political ladder to governor, and he’s not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of guy who would risk it to enter a crowded Senate race as an underdog.

In one regard — age — Schatz would make sense as Hawai‘i’s next senator.

It takes time to build seniority in the Senate and Schatz, who turns 40 next year, would be about the same age as Daniel Inouye was when he was first elected to the Senate and started amassing the seniority that has served Hawai‘i so well.

U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, considered by some to be the Democratic frontrunner, would be 65 when inaugurated — about the same age as Akaka was when he was first appointed to the Senate. Some 20 years later with his age a concern at 86, Akaka still only has enough seniority to chair a relatively minor committee.

Of the other potential Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa would be 61 next year, former Rep. Ed Case 60 and former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann 58. The likely Republican candidate, former Gov. Linda Lingle would be 59.

Schatz could serve two terms as lieutenant governor and two terms as governor and still run for the Senate at a younger age than any of the others are now, which says tons about the graying of Hawai‘i’s political leadership.

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5 Comments on “A U.S. Senate race for the ages”

  1. Richard Gozinya Says:

    He’s following the Mazie Theory of Political Advancement (“MTPA”) wherein one holds a powerless position and does virtually nothing until enough time has been served to move to a higher position where one may continue the same level of accomplishment and then make a grab for the gold ring where the predecessor stands as a paradigm for the non-accomplishment award.

    Good plan. Proven to work.

  2. Seawalker Says:

    The other young whipper-snapper you failed to mention is Djou. Like Schatz, he is still relatively young and would make it to the top of the Senate in due time. But the problem is this — he is a Republican. Hawaii seriously needs a Republican in Washington to balance the 2 parties. Djou is still licking his wounds from the last election. But, come on, get over it. You should join the action and push the age issue of the front-runners. Makes sense to me, I’ll vote for the young and the restless. Besides, work is a young man’s sport.

  3. David Shapiro Says:

    Djou certainly fits the same age demographic, but he’s urging Lingle to run and deferring to her.

  4. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    The Old Futs who control local – and national – politics are the major reason why we need to start pushing for mandatory euthanasia for anyone over the age of 50. It torked me off when I was in my late 20s that I was forced to live with policies , processes, and decisions controlled by the OFs back then.

    Now that I’m part of the OF Generation, I look around and see the SameOld, SameOld happening today even by people who were standing alongside me banging on the door to be let in. However, I have not joined them – I work very, very hard every day to get young adults involved in making decisions about how they will live, work & play over the next 25 – 40 years.

  5. hipoli Says:


    Brian started his career running a small nonprofit. An actual JOB, with meaningfulness and community contribution, at a young and eager age. That’s a pretty rare trait in amongst our crop of full time, lifer politicians.

    Then, after getting into the House, Brian left the comforts of that very cozy and comfortable House seat, prior to making that golden, coveted 10 years of elected official vesting to instead follow his very real passion of public service and run for higher office. He lost that election.

    Instead of becoming a lobbyist or whatever politicians who lose become, Brian took over a large non profit, helping it grow and managed it towards greater effeciency and effectiveness. He ran this nonprofit for years. He walked away from politics and directly into the community, helping people.

    Then, once again, Brian stepped down from this position to pursue his still burning passion for public service through public office. He probably could have stayed at the non profit and ran, but he didnt. He chose to commit to the LG race–and showed us all how serious he was.

    Brian entered a very crowded LG race & ultimately showed ‘um all how it’s done.

    Now, in his role as LG, Brian is working to do what he just does: manage the office to greater efficiency and effectiveness. Still fresh in the role, he’s working with all the depts to improve how to help state govt get more federal money, APEC preparation, and helping with other less glamorous, non headline grabbing government nuts and bolts work. Brian’s got his nose down, doing grunt government work. Sorry if it’s just not fluffy enough for you, but it is significant, meaningful work for government.

    So, for you to compare his career and his current role to Mazie is unfortunate. No disrespect to Mazie, but Brian has charted a much, much different career, with professional and personal experiences that would, indeed, in my humble opinion, render Brian a fabulous, committed, balanced, and brilliant Senator.

    Plus, as David points out, Brians youth sure would be another big plus for the Collective Us. He sure does have the experience, the heart, the passion, the intelligence, and the youth.

    All the said, it all comes down to the Collective Us and the other choices of rapidly aging polticians who have been patiently ‘waiting their turn’.

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