WASHINGTON (JTA) — Hawaii’s governor named his Jewish lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to replace the late Daniel Inouye in the U.S. 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.
He campaign for President Obama in Hawaii, Obama’s home state, in 2008, and his experience is in the non-profit sector.
He was for a time 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, had told Abercrombie that his preferred successor would be U.S. 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 with Obama Wednesday evening to Washington aboard Air Force One. Obama had been in Hawaii for the Christmas vacation.
Schatz will serve until 2014, when there will be a general election for the seat.
Schatz brings to 11 the number of U.S. Senators who identify as Jewish.
All are Democrats, except for Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Additionally, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) does not identify a religion but notes that his mother is Jewish.