Could a New, Young Potential Super-Star Hawaii Congresswoman-Elect Get Appointed to the Senate?

News & Politics

Way out there in Hawaii, our 50th state, 2,500 miles from the West Coast, there have been some interesting political developments, including the emergence of a potential political prodigy. Democrat Tulsi Gabbard became the first Hindu-American to enter the U.S. House of Representatives at age 31, after she soundly defeated Kawika Crowley of the Republican Party in Hawaii's second Congressional district in November. At 21, she was the youngest person to be elected to the Hawaii state legislature.

Gabbard is also a veteran of the Iraqi war, and one of the first of two female combat vets elected to Congress, having deployed to Iraq in 2004 with the Hawaii National Guard. She'll be joined in the House by Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked in Iraq.

The emergence of Gabbard is especially relevant at the moment since, with the death of Senator Daniel Inouye, Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie must appoint someone to fill Inouye's seat. And who could be more exciting than Gabbard, who has a 67 percent approval rating across the state, and won her House race with 80 percent of the vote, and is seen by many as a leader with extraordinary potential and much media charisma?

Some national progressives and local advocates would love to see Abercrombie appoint Gabbard and really make a splash. Their logic goes something like this: Like Inouye, Gabbard volunteered at a young age to serve as a solider, under fire, in a time of national crisis. Like him, she has dedicated her life to a special brand of leadership — a work horse with the bridge-building skills to bring to Hawaii the attention, respect and resources that the state deserves. Many suggest that Gabbard is already an exceptional leader, with rare gifts who could best elevate Hawaii's profile. 

Nevertheless, an appointment to the Senate would seem to be a long shot, given the fact that Gabbard hasn't made it to the House of Representatives yet. Still, there is a way: Apparently there is a process by which Gabbard could be appointed, since a committee of Hawaii Democrats must nominate three potential successors to the governor within the next 21 days. The governor must pick from those three names. But already Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is telling Abecrombie that he's got to hurry. The favorite to get the job is Hawaii Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, who was endorsed by Inouye, a fellow Democrat, in a letter he sent to Abercrombie on the day he died.

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