Obama Endorses Schatz in Hawaii Senate Race
President Obama, who is expected to keep his distance from many tight congressional races this year, weighed in on a competitive and high-profile Democratic primary Monday by endorsing Hawaii incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz over Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.
Obama’s backing could provide a significant boost for Schatz, as the president has high approval ratings in Hawaii, the place of his birth and the state where he and his family vacation each year.
Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed then-Lt. Gov. Schatz to the Senate in 2012 after the death of long-serving Daniel Inouye, despite the popular lawmaker’s dying wish that Hanabusa be his replacement. Now Hanabusa is challenging the progressive Schatz, and early polling shows her with an edge ahead of the Aug. 9 primary.
Given the state’s Democratic leanings and the president’s popularity there, the Senate incumbent is embracing Obama as a boon and not a drag on his candidacy.
"I'm honored to receive President Obama's endorsement in this critical election and I am proud to be one of the President's most steadfast allies in the U.S. Senate,” Schatz said in a statement. “President Obama personally understands Hawaii’s values and is committed to making sure that everyone who works hard and plays by the rules is given a fair shot.”
There is also a history of loyalty between the two men. Schatz was an early supporter of Obama’s in 2008, whereas Hanabusa backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.
Obama has also endorsed three incumbent House Democrats facing primary challenges in California and Texas.