Dan Inouye did a lot for our state. That’s what folks here remember.

They don’t much remember how he voted on most issues, just on the things that affected them. He brought home the bacon, the highways, the federal largesse, the things that kept people in their jobs.

That’s what counted and that’s why they kept electing him until the day he passed away. And you could phone his office and they listened to your story.

Dan Inouye 2010 at Civil Beat

The late Sen. Dan Inouye was photographed during a visit to Civil Beat in 2010.

Civil Beat


Your school could visit him in DC, your cousin’s visa delays might be straightened out. All politics is local and Dan never forgot that for a minute. It’s a lesson that Brian Schatz has to memorize and follow, especially for the next two years and, if he’s lucky, for many years to come.

One thing’s for sure. From the day she leaves the House of Representatives, possibly before, Colleen Hanabusa will be organizing for 2016. No gracious loser she – with Colleen “it’s personal.” A lot of voters who might otherwise have voted for her apparently got that message. And they didn’t like it. But time may soften the perception.

On matters of policy, what you’re for and what you’re against, Schatz and Hanabusa are two peas in a pod.  So while Colleen is going to local charity auctions, being seen at high school football games, supporting good community causes in front of the TV cameras and then in late 2015 holding coffee hours and afterwards going door to door “to keep in touch with the community” before officially declaring she’s up for a 2016 re-match, Brian had better be on that long plane trip home at least once a month, if not more, and be equally visible, asking what he can do for his constituents, more like someone from the House of Representatives than the Senate (he’s only got a House-like two years to prove himself).

Beyond his office operation here and in Washington and a small group of influential local folks. including veterans groups, Dan Inouye did not have a large, well-oiled political machine behind him.  And he managed to live so long and stay in office so long that what he became was a “patron.” Hawaii was his “client.”

He was a genuine war hero, but he was no Merovingian prince and he could not anoint his successor, although the person he wanted to name still does not see it that way. With Colleen, “it’s personal.”


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About the Author

  • Stephen O'Harrow
    Stephen O'Harrow is a professor of Asian Languages and currently one of the longest-serving members of the faculty at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. A resident of Hawaii since 1968, he's been active in local political campaigns since the 1970s and is a member of the Board of Directors, Americans for Democratic Action/Hawaii.