Obama backs incumbent Schatz in Hawaii’s Democratic senatorial race

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama endorsed incumbent Sen. Brian Schatz in Hawaii’s hotly contested Democratic primary.

“Brian’s deep commitment to the people of Hawaii and his effective leadership are why I believe it is important to return him to the Senate,” Obama said in a statement posted Monday on the Schatz campaign website.

“Senator Schatz is protecting Hawaii’s values and fighting every day on behalf of middle-class families,” Obama said. “There is no question that Senator Schatz is the right choice to continue delivering for Hawaii.”

Hawaii’s Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz, who is Jewish, to the seat in December 2012 following the death of Sen. Daniel Inouye, a longtime senator who was very close to the U.S. Jewish leadership. Schatz was serving as lieutenant governor at the time.

Inouye, also a Democrat, said before he died that he favored Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to replace him, and she maintains the backing of Inouye’s family in what is turning out to be closely fought primary race with Schatz.

Obama has endorsed only a handful of primary candidates; his endorsement is expected to carry weight in his native state.

Schatz chaired Obama’s presidential campaign in the state in 2008.

Also endorsing Schatz Monday was Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader.

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