Hawaii governor made his selection from a list of three nominees chosen by the state's Democratic party. Schatz will serve until an election for the seat is held in 2014.
HONOLULU – Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has selected Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to succeed the late Sen. Daniel Inouye. Earlier in the day Hawaii Democrats picked Schatz, along with U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Department of Land and Natural Resources Deputy Director Esther Kiaaina, as final nominees for the state's open U.S. Senate seat. The seat had been held for 49 years by Inouye, who died last week at 88.
Louise Kim McCoy, a spokeswoman for the governor confirmed the selections to The Associated Press. The AP learned of the names earlier through a member of the committee who voted on the names spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the list.
Hanabusa, Schatz and Kiaaina emerged from a crop of 14 candidates. Earlier Wednesday, 13 of the 14 candidates briefly made their cases before the state party's central committee in a meeting at the party's headquarters in small mall east of downtown Honolulu. Those not present made their cases in video messages, including Hanabusa, a front-runner for the job thanks to Inouye himself.
The committee then met in private to name three finalists, picking the first three candidates who received majority support from the committee.
Under Hawaii law, the governor makes the final selection from the narrowed list of candidates. The state party picks the three candidates because Inouye, who died last week, was a Democrat.
Before he died, Inouye pushed to be replaced by Hanabusa. He told Abercrombie in a letter that it was his last wish.
It was not clear how much weight Abercrombie gave Inouye's letter as he considered his pick. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged the governor to make his selection quickly so the new senator could take part in important votes at the end of the year, including legislation on the "fiscal cliff" crisis.
Schatz will serve until 2014, when general election will be held to fill the seat through 2016, the end of Inouye's elected term.
Hanabusa, 61, said in a video message played at the Wednesday morning meeting that she's honored to have Inouye's support but is also is qualified to assume the seat and hit the ground running.
"Not one of us has any favorable rights to that position," she said.
Gabbard spent part of Christmas Day tweeting and sharing messages of support for her candidacy through her campaign website. Among others, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker said on Twitter that Gabbard should get the appointment.
Kiaaina lost a primary race to Gabbard earlier this year.