Obama endorses Schatz in Hawaiis Dem. Senate race

President Barack Obama has endorsed Jewish 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 March 31 on the Schatz campaign website.

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

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 race with Schatz in the Aug. 9 primary.

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 on March 31 was Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader. — jta