WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hawaii’s governor named his Jewish lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to replace the late Daniel Inouye in the US Senate.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat, on Wednesday named Schatz, a former chairman of the state Democratic Party, to replace Inouye, who died last week.
Schatz, 40, lists his religion as Jewish on his Facebook page.
The senator-to-be campaigned for President Obama in Hawaii, the president’s home state, in 2008, and his experience is in the non-profit sector. Schatz spent time as the CEO of Helping Hands Hawaii, a social services provider.
Inouye, who was a pro-Israel leader in the Senate and who once considered converting to Judaism, told Abercrombie that his preferred successor would be US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii).
Inouye’s office said it was “disappointed” but wished Schatz the best of luck, the Associated Press reported.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had urged Abercombie to appoint a senator as soon as possible, in part because of the urgency of negotiations over the federal budget. Automatic cuts kick in Jan. 1 unless the government approves a budget.
Schatz was to return to Washington evening aboard Air Force One. Obama had been in Hawaii for the Christmas vacation.
Schatz will serve until 2014, at which point there will be a general election for his seat.
Schatz brings the number of US Senators who identify as Jewish to 11. All are Democrats, except for Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats. Additionally, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) does not identify with a specific religion but notes that his mother is Jewish.