Schatz to face opposition as Democrats fall behind in Senate
HONOLULU (AP) — Despite his win in heavily Democratic Hawaii, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says overall losses in his party mean he will have to work harder on issues such as climate change, which are important to his state.
Schatz easily defeated his Republican opponent John Carroll Tuesday. The win gives Schatz his first full term in the U.S. Senate.
“I’m honored by the support that the people of Hawaii have shown me,” Schatz told the AP in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We’ve got tremendous work to do in terms of healing the divisions that were exposed during the campaign and on Election Day, but I’m ready to get to work.”
Schatz acknowledged that Democrats didn’t win the number of Senate seats they had hoped for, but said he believes there are enough “patriotic Republicans” to prevent the country from heading in the wrong direction.
“Democrats really ought to collect their thoughts and figure out what went wrong,” he said.
Schatz said he plans to make climate change and clean energy a priority in Washington.
“There is growing public sentiment that climate change is urgent and caused by humans and requires an aggressive response,” he said. “But there’s no doubt that having a majority (in Congress) would have been more helpful to the cause, so we’re going to keep fighting the fight because we know that history is on our side and the voters are on our side.”
Schatz was part of a delegation of 10 Democratic U.S. senators that went to Paris to show their support for the 2015 climate talks and to stress the urgency of the issue.
Schatz serves on the Appropriations; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Indian Affairs committees. He also serves on the Select Committee on Ethics.
Schatz had an unlikely road to the Senate. When Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Inouye died in 2012, it was left to then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie to fill the seat. Inouye’s dying wish was to have then-U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa fill the seat, but Abercrombie instead chose Schatz, his lieutenant governor.
In 2014, Hanabusa challenged Schatz but lost in a special election to fill the last two years of Inouye’s unexpired term.
“He has a really good grassroots thing going,” said Vicky Moore, a 69-year-old retiree who lives in Hawaii Kai. “He’s always with local people. He listens to people. There’s a bigger connection than we had with Inouye, who we never saw.” Plus, Moore likes that Schatz is young, because he brings a new energy.
Schatz was raised in Hawaii and was a member of the state House from 1998 to 2006. He is married and has two children.
Carroll, a longtime Hawaii resident, served as a Hawaii lawmaker five times, four in the House and once as a state senator. He owns and operates a farm on Hawaii’s Big Island and has worked for incentives in the state’s agriculture industry.
Carroll told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday that he was disappointed by the loss.
“I’m really sad because he is such a waste time and he doesn’t know what the hell he is doing up there,” he said. “I mean he’s a nice looking young guy, but on the Jones Act issue, for instance, he thinks that act is to protect Navy ship building, and it’s not. ...The thing has been a total failure over the past nearly hundred years.”
Carrol said repealing the Jones Act was a major issue in his campaign.
Carroll is a graduate of the University of Hawaii, where he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees. He is an Army veteran of the Korean War, was an Air Force fighter pilot and has been a commercial pilot for Hawaiian Airlines. He has practiced law in both the public and private sectors, and was a judge advocate general for the Army and Air National Guards.