WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the filing deadline for Hawaii elections closed Tuesday, it turned out that Brian Schatz was facing 11 challengers in his re-election to the U.S. Senate.

But many of the candidates are political also-rans who have lost previous races for a variety of seats or they are first-time contenders. And none currently holds office, let alone much of a campaign fund.

No wonder political pundits are predicting Schatz should be a shoo-in for re-election.

We feel good,” said Schatz, taking a brief timeout Thursday from his duties on Capitol Hill to talk politics. “We have been working very hard over the last three and a half years to do a good job for Hawaii, and also doing all the necessary preparations on the election side. We are obviously not near the finish line, and we are going to work very hard and take nothing for granted.”

Sen Brian Schatz popped into the Woodrow Wilson House for the kickoff of the Hawaii on the Hill event. 7 june 2016.
Sen. Brian Schatz at the Tuesday welcome reception for the Hawaii on the Hill events. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Schatz continued: “But we are in a good position. We feel confident about the coming election and we are looking forward to talking to the people of Hawaii about the work I’ve been able to accomplish on their behalf.”

That work, he said, centers on bringing federal resources home to the islands.

It is something he said he is in a good position to do from his perch on the Senate Committee on Appropriations (with subcommittees on defense, military construction and health) and on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“This is a question of whether or not you think Donald Trump is temperamentally fit to be the leader of the free world.” — Sen. Brian Schatz

In that latter post, Schatz serves as ranking member (the senior member of the minority party) on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet.

“That puts me in a position to do practical things for Hawaii — like bringing resources home for clean energy, for transportation, for Native Hawaiians, for health, education and housing,” he said. “It’s certainly true that part of our work here is to fight battles at a national level and to engage with our opponents on questions of conscience and ideology.”

Schatz is equally focused on Democrats retaining the presidency.

With Hillary Clinton now earning major leadership endorsements — on Thursday alone they included President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — Schatz was asked what advice he would give to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who failed to halt Clinton’s advance to the nomination in Tuesday’s primaries.

“I won’t presume to advise him,” Schatz responded. “I will say that the feeling in the caucus is increasingly optimistic, because we all know Bernie. And we know how strongly he feels about the need to overturn Citizens United, about the need to make college more affordable, about the need to address climate change.”

While Sanders continues to have difference with Clinton, Schatz called them “minor” compared to the “stark differences” between Democrats and Republicans generally and specifically between Clinton and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Hawaii Elections Guide 2016

“And so it is important to remember that this isn’t a question of whether you are ideologically on the left or the right or the middle, this is a question of whether or not you think Donald Trump is temperamentally fit to be the leader of the free world,” Schatz said. “And I don’t think it’s a close call.”

Schatz called Trump “unstable” and “reckless,” traits that would not vanish should he win the presidency.

“I think the more likely and terrifying scenario is that, should he become the most powerful person on the planet, that those scary characteristics of his would manifest themselves in the federal government,” Schatz said. “And that’s why this is an election cycle like no other.”

The down-ballot impact of Trump’s candidacy — that is, hurting other Republican candidates if his own campaign implodes — could help Democrats recapture the Senate.

If that happens, and if Schatz wins re-election, he will likely see his influence grow.

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