Gov. Neil Abercrombie won't comment specifically on a potential race for the U.S. Senate until it's official, but says "rivalries" such as the one developing between his appointee, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa are nothing new in Democratic Party politics.
Although she has not officially announced her plans, a Hanabusa campaign source says she has decided to challenge Schatz in 2014 to fill the remaining two years in the term formerly held by U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye.
When asked if he was afraid of a rift developing in the party, Abercrombie -- the titular head of the state Democratic Party -- dismissed the concern.
In a brief interview Thursday in his office, Abercrombie said:
"This is the Democratic Party. I’ve been involved in it for more than half a century. The Democratic Party, by definition, has contests and rivalries and plenty of opportunity for people to put themselves forward as candidates.
"This is nothing new. It goes all the way back to Jack Burns’ days. We’ve always had very, very vigorous contests and opportunities for people to choose who they think best represents the Democratic Party. It’s a history of the Democratic Party, and I think we’re the stronger for it."
Hanabusa's decision also would cause an opening in the 1st Congressional District, triggering what is expected to be a wide open Democratic primary. When Abercrombie appointed Schatz over Hanabusa, who was Inouye's pick as his successor, he said issues he took into consideration included her post on the House Armed Services Committee and the potential for a vacancy triggering a winner-take-all special election for her full two-year term, to which she had just been re-elected.
Abercrombie also dismissed those concerns Thursday:
"I’m always focused on what we can do to maximize the viability of our delegation. So, it’s not so much concern, but whatever takes place in the district is, of course, of interest to me as governor."