By Derrick DePledge
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly has endorsed U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz in next year's Senate race.
The early endorsement from a prominent labor group is important for Schatz, particularly if U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, opts to challenge him in the primary. Hanabusa, a former labor attorney with strong support in the labor community, is considering primary campaigns against Schatz or Gov. Neil Abercrombie.
UHPA, which represents nearly 4,000 faculty members, has shown an independent streak. UHPA was the only union to endorse former congressman Ed Case over U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in the Democratic primary for Senate in 2012. The faculty union also backed former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican, for governor.
UHPA's board of directors said in a statement that the early endorsement "was the result of unprecedented changes in Congress with the retirement of Sen. Daniel Akaka and the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye, and the need for a fresh perspective and new insights on key issues affecting UH faculty, students, and the local economy."
From Adrienne Valdez, the UHPA board president:
From his first day as Senator, Brian Schatz immediately reached out to UHPA and our members to ask how he could help address the university’s budgetary concerns. In his relatively brief time in Congress, Sen. Schatz has proven he can make headway on federal legislation that affects us in Hawaii.
We believe he will continue that momentum as he looks after the best interests of Hawaii, now and in the long term. We’ve been able to count on him to provide pragmatic, realistic solutions, and he has earned the respect and confidence of faculty.