The Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA), AFSCME's state affiliate, backed Schatz over Hanabusa over the weekend. Its decision could prove a major boon to his campaign, as many expected Hanabusa would have the edge with union support in a state where labor plays a powerful role in Democratic politics. Hanabusa is a former labor attorney, but so far all of the major unions that have endorsed in the race have backed Schatz.
"Through his early years at the state legislature, then as our lieutenant governor and now as U.S. Senator, Brian Schatz has had unwavering support for Hawaii's workers — which is why we have recognized his candidacy with our early endorsement," HGEA President Jackie Ferguson-Miyamoto said in a statement. "Senator Schatz has a perfect voting record on labor issues in Congress and has demonstrated a solid commitment to protecting Social Security and Medicare."
Schatz, Hawaii's former lieutenant governor, was appointed to the Senate late last year by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) after the death of former Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). But Inouye had requested before his death that Hanabusa take his seat, and after a few months of weighing whether to challenge Abercrombie or Schatz, Hanabusa decided to jump into the Senate race.
"This endorsement means a lot to me personally. These are the people who provide critical public services every day, and they represent middle class across Hawaii" Schatz said in a statement. "I thank HGEA for standing with me as we work to solve the challenges of our time, including protecting Social Security, creating jobs, growing tourism, and expanding clean energy."