U.S. Senator for Hawaii Daniel Inouye
U.S. Senator for Hawaii Daniel InouyeReuters

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) announced Wednesday that Jewish Lieutenant Gov. Brian Schatz (D) will fill the seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant after the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).

Abercrombie was widely expected to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) to succeed the late senator, as hours prior to his death, Inouye had named Hanabusa as his preferred successor.

“Of course Senator Inouye’s views and his wishes were taken into account fully,” Abercrombie said. “But the charge of the central committee and by extension then myself as governor, was to act in the overall best interest of this party.

“The law makes explicitly clear as do the rules of the Democratic Party, that everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s view is taken into account -- nonetheless, no one and nothing is preordained,” he continued.

Schatz, 40, who lists his religion as Jewish on his Facebook page, is a former state representative and a former chairman of the state Democratic Party. He also was a leader of Obama's campaign in Hawaii in 2008.

As lieutenant governor, he led efforts relating to clean energy as well as private and public investment in the state. He also led one of the state’s largest nonprofit social services organizations.

Schatz said he would seek election to a full term in 2014, when a special election will be held to fill the spot until 2016, which would have been the end of Inouye’s ninth term.

“I am honored to serve in this capacity, and I can assure you that if given the opportunity, I will make Hawaii proud,” he said. “I’m going to work very hard, and I understand the road ahead is going to be challenging for all of us, but it also is potentially a hopeful time to rebuild as a united congressional delegation.”

He will immediately be faced with pressing business in Washington, where President Barack Obama and congressional leaders are negotiating a deal to avoid automatic year-end tax increases and spending cuts.

He is expected to be sworn in on Thursday afternoon.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral service for the late Sen. Inouye on Sunday in Honolulu.

Inouye, remembered as one of Israel’s staunchest allies, died December 17 of respiratory complications at the age of 88.