Environmental Group Endorses Schatz Even As Hanabusa Remains Undecided

It’s still early. And in fact Rep. Colleen Hanabusa still hasn’t decided whether to run for Sen. Brian Schatz’s seat in next year’s special election.

But the national League of Conservation Voters announced this morning it is endorsing and helping raise money for Schatz’s re-election effort.

League of Conservation Voters spokesman Jeff Gohringer acknowledged in an interview that it’s the environmental organization’s first election of the campaign cycle, and the earliest the LCV has ever given an endorsement.

He said it’s a reflection of “how confident we are in his continued leadership on climate change.”

Indeed, Schatz, who was appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last year to fill the late Sen. Daniel Inouye’s seat, has made climate change and environmental issues key during his time in Congress.

However, Hanabusa has gotten high scores from the group, scoring 94 percent last year on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard of environmental votes. Over the course of her career, including her time in the House, she has scored 96 percent.

Asked if the group is risking alienating Hanabusa, Gohringer said only the endorsement is  a reflection of the group’s strong support for Schatz, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, as well as Chair of the Subcommittee on Water and Power. Gohringer said Schatz had asked the organization for an endorsement. “We were happy to give it,” he said.

It unclear whether the early endorsement was sought in the hopes of discouraging Hanabusa from running against him. 

Asked about asking for the endorsement early in the process, Schatz campaign campaign spokesman Brandin Shim said only, “We’re happy to receive the endorsement that the LCV Action Fund rolled out today.” The Hanabusa campaign was not immediately available for comment.

In a press relase, LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinsk said, “Brian Schatz is a lifelong environmentalist and a proven leader on climate change policy. He has championed clean energy initiatives that have put Hawaii at the forefront of utilizing renewable energy and reducing dependence on petroleum. We will need his continued leadership in the U.S. Senate.”

Schatz in the release said, “I am honored to receive endorsement from the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund.  LCV has proven again and again to be at the forefront of environmental, conservation, and clean energy policy. I believe that it is my responsibility as an elected official to ensure that America’s future generations inherit a planet in which the air and water are cleaner, fossil fuels play a reduced role, climate change is no longer a threat, and clean energy jobs are integral to America’s economy. As the Senator from Hawaii, I will continue to fight tirelessly for legislation that will accomplish these goals in Hawaii and across the nation.”

The release pointed not only to his support for enviornmental issues in Congress, but his record in Hawaii. It noted Schatz has led on climate change and environmental policies since his time serving in the state legislature. While serving as Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor, Schatz helped implement the state’s landmark clean energy initiative, which has helped the state get 18 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Schatz also spearheaded Hawaii’s work with the Pacific Island nations to invest in smart grid projects, and helped to develop the largest wind energy facility in Hawaii.

The group is also helping raise money through a website for pro-environmental candidates, GiveGreen. The organization has also donated directly to Schatz’s campaign, Gohringer said, though he would not say how much prior to Apr. 15, the deadline for candidates to report contributions to the Federal Election Commission.

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— Kery Murakami

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