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Hawaii Lt. Gov. Schatz tapped to succeed Inouye in Senate

Ricky Li / Ricky Li


Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie named his lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, to fill the Senate seat left vacant following the death of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D).

Abercrombie, a Democrat, chose Schatz from a list of three finalists forwarded to him by the state Democratic party. Inouye, who served almost 50 full years in the Senate, died on Dec. 17.

The late Senator Daniel Inouye's successor, Hawaii's lieutenant governor, Brian Schatz, will be sworn in a day after he was tapped for the position in a move that goes against Inouye's final wishes. TODAY's Natalie Morales reports.

"No one can fill Sen. Daniel K. Inouye's shoes, but together, we can all try to follow in his footsteps," Schatz said in a press conference in Hawaii.

Schatz, flying to Washington with President Obama aboard Air Force One, Tweeted that he was eager to support the president's agenda. The president was returning early from a Christmas break in Hawaii. 

The other finalists for the position included Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, whom Inouye had preferred as his successor, and Esther Kiaaina, the deputy director of the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"Senator Inouye conveyed his final wish to Governor Abercrombie," Jennifer Sabas, Inouye's chief of staff, said in a statement. "While we are very disappointed that it was not honored, it was the Governor's decision to make."

Abercrombie said Inouye's views and wishes weighed on his decision-making process, but "no one and nothing is preordained." He said the possibility of a special election to fill Hanabusa's seat weighed on him in choosing Inouye's successor.

"Sometimes you have to set aside personal considerations in order to look for the good of the whole," the governor, a former congressman, said at a press conference.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office said Schatz would be sworn in to office on Thursday afternoon or early evening, NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reported. The Senate reconvenes on Thursday to take up the urgent business of reaching a deal to avoid the "fiscal cliff" on Jan. 1.