Within just 24 hours, Neil Abercrombie sent Brian Schatz to the U.S. Senate and Shan Tsutsui to the fifth floor of the state Capitol.

Put another way, a 74-year-old man just elevated a 40-year-old and a 41-year-old, respectively, to greater political power. And the governor knows it.

“There is a transition taking place,” he said, adding that Hawaii voters sent Tulsi Gabbard, 31, to the U.S. House of Representatives. “A 21st century transition.”

The governor compared the transition with the so-called “1954 revolution,” when Hawaii Democrats wrested control of the Territorial Legislature from Republicans. Dan Inouye, then a young man, was part of that transition, said Abercrombie.

“The entire spectrum of change was covered in 1954,” he said. “They literally transformed the foundation to and for the Hawaii we have today.”

He continued: “I think you are going to be seeing the same thing taking place in the Legislature. … This governor is aiding and abetting this transition phase as much as is humanely possible.”

Neil Abercrombie, agent of transition.

Who’s Next?

The big question from all this is, What happens to the people who are still on stage? Is the governor suggesting he might be leaving office sooner than expected?

When Civil Beat asked him that last month, he said he was committed to running for re-election in 2014. He said he was in good health and said he would defeat any primary challenge.

But you should have seen Abercrombie’s face when he heard Tsutsui joke with reporters that he might run for governor himself in two years, too.

At first, the governor’s expression was tight-lipped, suggesting either he didn’t like what he had just heard or that he hadn’t caught it. Then Abercrombie reddened and laughed, joshing that perhaps there was a flaw in his decision to urge Tsutsui to become LG.

Certainly, Abercrombie went out of his way to get make Tsutsui LG, including many conversations between them over the past 24 hours. By law, the Senate president is offered the lieutenant governor job, but he didn’t have to take it.

The administration has also taken the unusual step of establishing an LG’s office on Maui, where Tsutsui lives with his wife and three young children. The governor said he had always strived to have a non-Oahu-centric government, and the Maui office helped seal the deal.

Back to that transition business.

The governor said he told the children of Tsutsui and Schatz that their dads were taking their new position “for their sake,” meaning the generation after Tsutsui and Schatz.

Abercrombie was also asked whether he had encountered any criticism for choosing Schatz over U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. He said he had not, though ample criticism can be found throughout the state, the four floors below the fifth at the Capitol and all over the media landscape.

“Anecdotally, the enthusiasm for Sen. Schatz was very, very high,” he said, saying disappointments always happen when favored candidates don’t prevail. “Some of this is inside baseball.”

Meanwhile, more transition is coming.

Over the next few days, Senate Democrats will meet to appoint a new president. And Maui Democrats will soon send three names — to Abercrombie — to replace Tsutsui in the Senate.

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