Brian Schatz

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Brian Schatz
Brian Schatz, official portrait, 113th Congress 2.jpg
United States Senator
from Hawaii
Assumed office
December 26, 2012
Serving with Mazie Hirono
Appointed byNeil Abercrombie
Preceded byDaniel Inouye
11th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 6, 2010 – December 26, 2012
GovernorNeil Abercrombie
Preceded byDuke Aiona
Succeeded byShan Tsutsui
Chair of the Hawaii Democratic Party
In office
May 2008 – January 2010
Preceded byJeani Withington
Succeeded byDante Carpenter
Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives
from the 25th district
In office
November 3, 2002 – November 7, 2006
Preceded byKenneth Hiraki
Succeeded byDella Au Belatti
Member of the Hawaii House of Representatives
from the 24th district
In office
November 3, 1998 – November 3, 2002
Preceded bySam Aiona
Succeeded byKirk Caldwell
Personal details
Brian Emanuel Schatz

(1972-10-20) October 20, 1972 (age 46)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Linda Kwok Kai Yun
EducationPomona College (BA)
WebsiteSenate website

Brian Emanuel Schatz (/ʃɑːts/; born October 20, 1972) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Hawaii since 2012. Schatz was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie to replace Senator Daniel Inouye after his death.

Schatz served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006, where he represented the 25th Legislative District and was chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii from 2008 to 2010. He also worked as chief executive officer of Helping Hands Hawaii, an Oahu nonprofit social service agency, until he resigned to run for lieutenant governor of Hawaii in the 2010 Hawaii gubernatorial election as the running mate of Neil Abercrombie.[1] He served as lieutenant governor until December 26, 2012, when Abercrombie appointed Schatz to serve out the rest of Daniel Inouye's U.S. Senate term after his death.[2] Upon his swearing-in, Schatz was the youngest U.S. Senator in the 112th Congress. Schatz won the 2014 special election to complete the remainder of Inouye's Senate term, and was reelected in 2016 for a full six-year term.

Early life[edit]

Brian Schatz was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, along with an identical twin brother, Steve. He is the son of Barbara Jane (née Binder) and Irwin Jacob Schatz, a cardiologist and native of Saint Boniface, Manitoba.[3][4]

Schatz is Jewish. JStreetPAC, which supported him, called him a "strong voice for the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement," and a supporter of the Iran nuclear agreement.[5][6]

Schatz's father was the first to complain about the ethics of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in a 1965 letter. The letter was ignored until the problem finally came to public attention in 1972. Irwin Schatz wrote that he was "astounded" that "physicians allow patients with potentially fatal disease to remain untreated when effective therapy is available." Brian Schatz said that his father didn't talk about the letter, but did influence him to pursue the public good.[7][8]

When Schatz and his brother were two years old the family moved to Hawaii[9] where Schatz later graduated from Punahou School.[10][11] Schatz enrolled at Pomona College in Claremont, California; he spent a term studying in Kenya as part of the International Training Program.[12] As a US Senator, Schatz is one of Pomona’s most high-profile alumni and was invited by Pomona to be the commencement speaker for the college’s Class of 2017.[13] After graduating with a B.A. in philosophy, he returned to Hawaii, where he taught at Punahou before taking other jobs in the nonprofit sector. Schatz, for a short while was a member of the Green Party in his early life.[14]

Early career[edit]

He became active in the community through his involvement in Youth for Environmental Services in the 1980s. He served as CEO of Helping Hands Hawaii and director of the Makiki Community Library and of the Center for a Sustainable Future. In March 2010, Schatz stepped down from Helping Hands to run for lieutenant governor.[15]

Hawaii House of Representatives (1998–2006)[edit]


In 1998, Schatz, a Democrat, challenged the incumbent State Representative of the 24th District of the Hawaii House of Representatives, Republican Sam Aiona, and won, 53%–47%.[16] In the 2000 rematch, he was re-elected, 57%–43%.[17]

In 2002, he ran in the newly redrawn 25th House district, and defeated Republican Bill Hols, 69%–31%.[18] In 2004, he defeated Republican Tracy Okubo 64%–36%.[19] The 25th district includes Makiki and Tantalus on Oahu.

Subsequent political career (2006–10)[edit]

2006 congressional election[edit]

Schatz ran for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district, vacated by Ed Case, who had decided to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Daniel Akaka. The Democratic primary featured 10 candidates, seven of whom served in the Hawaii Legislature. Mazie Hirono, the Lieutenant Governor, was the only one who had held statewide office and thus enjoyed the most name recognition. She also raised more money than any other candidate in the race, mostly because of the endorsement of EMILY's List,[20] and gave her campaign a personal loan of $100,000. Still, she won with just 22% of the vote, just 845 votes ahead of State Senator Colleen Hanabusa. State Representative Schatz ranked sixth with 7% of the vote, behind Hirono and four state senators.[21][22]

Support for Obama[edit]

Schatz, one of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama for president, founded a group with other Hawaii Democrats in December 2006 to urge Obama to run. Schatz said, "For the last six years we've been governed by fear, fear of terrorists, fear of other countries, even fear of the other party...everyone is governing by fear and Barack Obama changes all of that. He wants to govern the United States by hope."[23] In 2008, Schatz worked as spokesman for Obama's campaign in Hawaii.[24]

State Chairman[edit]

In April 2008, he began running for the position of chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii,[25] and won the job at the state convention the following month. During his tenure, the Democrats increased the number of active party members and delivered Obama's best performance of any state in the country. Hawaii native Obama won the state with 73% of the vote when just 55% of the state voted for Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004. Schatz stepped down as party chairman on January 9, 2010.[26]

Lieutenant Governor (2010–12)[edit]

2010 election[edit]

Schatz, his wife, Linda Kwok Kai Yun Schatz; incoming Hawaii First Lady Nancie Caraway; and Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie on Election Day 2010.

On January 10, 2010, Schatz announced his candidacy for the office of Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii.[27] Schatz's campaign priorities included the creation of clean-energy jobs, public education, and technological improvements in the public sector. He also declared his support for Hawaii House Bill 444,[28] which would have allowed same-sex civil unions in Hawaii had it not been vetoed by term-limited Republican Governor Linda Lingle.[29] A number of Hawaii labor unions endorsed Schatz for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary election, held statewide on September 18, 2010.[30] Schatz won the nomination with 34.8 percent of the vote, and thus became Abercrombie's running mate in the November general election.


On December 6, 2010, Schatz was inaugurated as Hawaii's 11th lieutenant governor alongside Abercrombie, who had defeated incumbent Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona in the gubernatorial election. Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice James Duffy administered the oath of office at the Coronation Pavilion on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace.

U.S. Senate (2012–present)[edit]


Shortly before Sen. Daniel Inouye died on December 17, 2012,[31] Sen. Inouye dictated a letter to Governor Neil Abercrombie, asking that U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa be appointed to finish out his term.[32][33]

Hawaii law on interim appointments to the U.S. Senate requires the governor to choose from three candidates selected by the party of the previous officeholder. On December 26, 2012, the Hawaii Democratic Party nominated Schatz, Hanabusa, and Esther Kia'aina, the deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The same day, Abercrombie named Schatz to the job, despite Inouye's request.[34] Later that night, Schatz accompanied President Barack Obama back to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One.[35] On December 27 Schatz was sworn in as a senator by Vice President Joe Biden.

Schatz's appointment to Inouye's seat on December 27, 2012, made him the senior senator from Hawaii (Mazie Hirono, who had been elected that November to replace retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka, took office just one week later on January 3, 2013). He is only the sixth person to represent Hawaii in the U.S. Senate, and the first non-Asian American to serve since Oren E. Long.

2014 election[edit]

Schatz announced his intention to run for election in the special election to be held in 2014 for a two years term. In April 2013, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa announced she would oppose Schatz in the primary. The core of the Schatz campaign was climate change and renewable energy,[36] and fieldwork from the Super-PAC Climate Hawks Vote has been credited with possibly putting Schatz over the top in a close Democratic primary.[37] Schatz defeated Hanabusa by 1,782 votes (0.75 percent)[38] in a primary delayed in two precincts by Hurricane Iselle.[39]

As expected in heavily Democratic Hawaii, Schatz went on to win the general election with about 70% of the vote.[40]

2016 election[edit]

In 2016, Schatz ran for and easily won his first full six-year senate term against only nominal opposition.[41]

According to New York magazine, Schatz had a low-profile but highly influential effect on the Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential election by pushing fellow Democrats to commit to progressive positions on issues such as healthcare, climate, college affordability and Social Security.[42]

Committee assignments (115th Congress)[edit]

Leadership positions[edit]

  • Chief Deputy Whip[43][44]
  • Co-chair, Senate Climate Change Task Force[45]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Political positions[edit]

According to New York magazine, Schatz is a progressive but not a "Sanders-style bomb-thrower."[42] He was characterized as a low-profile but a highly influential Senator in pushing fellow Democrats to adopt progressive policy positions.[42]

Gun law[edit]

As of 2010, the National Rifle Association has given Schatz a "C" rating for his mixed voting record regarding gun law.[48]

He participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster in 2016.[49] Schatz expressed disappointment, along with Mazie Hirono, when both the Democrat proposed Feinstein Amendment (making the sale of firearms to individuals on the terrorist watchlist illegal) and the Republican supported background check changes and gun sale alert system did not pass the Senate. He stated:[50]

More than 90% of Americans demand we take action on gun violence, but again Senate Republicans refuse to act. It’s unacceptable. Right now, known terrorists are banned from getting on an airplane, but they are still allowed to buy military-style weapons. It is absolutely insane. After one of the most horrific mass shootings in our history, we saw people across the country courageously stand up against gun violence and hatred. When will Republicans in Congress finally do the same?

In response to the 2017 Las Vegas shooting Schatz stated, "We can do more than lower the flag to half-mast. We can take a stand against gun violence by passing common-sense gun safety laws."[51]


Schatz supports same-sex marriage.[52] He sponsored legislation in 2015 to allow married gay couples to have equal access to the veterans benefits and Social Security they have earned.[53]

Privacy rights[edit]

In one of his first votes in the U.S. Senate, he voted against renewing the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012.[54] On April 17, 2013, he voted to expand background checks for gun purchases.[55]

Schatz voted for the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill opposed by many civil liberties groups.[56][57]


In March 2014, Schatz was a lead organizer of an overnight talkathon devoted to discussing climate change. The gathering of over two dozen Senate Democrats took place on the Senate floor. The League of Conservation Voters supported the talkathon and ran campaign ads on Schatz's behalf.[58]


To encourage tourism in West Hawaii, Schatz proposed that customs begin in Japan so that planes can arrive in West Hawaii as domestic flights.[59]


Schatz spearheaded a nonbinding resolution in July 2018 "warning President Trump not to let the Russian government question diplomats and other officials". The resolution states the United States "should refuse to make available any current or former diplomat, civil servant, political appointee, law enforcement official or member of the Armed Forces of the United States for questioning by the government of Vladimir Putin". It passed 98-0.[60]

Health Care[edit]

Schatz supports Sen. Bernie Sanders' single-payer proposal, but also introduced his own proposal which would allow states to expand Medicaid into a universal system.[61][62]

Personal life[edit]

Schatz is married to Linda Kwok Kai Yun. They have two children. Brian's identical twin brother, Steve, runs the Hawaii Department of Education's Office of Strategic Reform.[63]

Electoral history[edit]

Hawai'i House of Representatives District 24 election, 1998
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz 3,904 53.1%
Republican Sam Aiona (inc.) 3,446 46.9%
Hawai'i House of Representatives District 24 Democratic Primary election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 2,771 77.1%
Democratic Casey Choi 824 22.9%
Hawai'i House of Representatives District 24 election, 2000
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 3,825 56.7%
Republican Sam Aiona 2,917 43.3%
Hawai'i House of Representatives District 25 election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 4,896 68.7%
Republican William "Bill" Hols 2,233 31.3%
Hawai'i House of Representatives District 25 election, 2004
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 5,367 63.8%
Republican Tracy Okubo 3,048 36.2%
U.S. House of Representatives 2nd District in Hawai'i Democratic Primary election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Mazie Hirono 24,487 21.8%
Democratic Colleen Hanabusa 23,643 21.1%
Democratic Matt Matsunaga 16,001 14.3%
Democratic Clayton Hee 12,649 11.3%
Democratic Gary Hooser 10,730 9.6%
Democratic Brian Schatz 8,254 7.4%
Democratic Ron Menor 8,030 7.2%
Democratic Nestor Garcia 4,479 4.0%
Democratic Hanalei Aipoalani 2,688 2.4%
Democratic Joe Zuiker 1,174 1.0%
Hawai'i Lieutenant Governor Democratic Primary election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz 83,476 36.9%
Democratic Robert "Bobby" Bunda 45,986 20.3%
Democratic Norman Sakamoto 44,488 19.6%
Democratic Gary Hooser 22,890 10.1%
Democratic Lyla Berg 20,183 8.9%
Democratic Jon Riki Karamatsu 6,746 3.0%
Democratic Steve Hirakami 2,695 1.2%

Schatz was elected in a separate primary but on a joint ticket in the general election with Neil Abercrombie, who was running for Governor.

U.S. Senate Democratic Primary election in Hawai'i, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 115,445 49.3%
Democratic Colleen Hanabusa 113,663 48.6%
Democratic Brian Evans 4,842 2.1%
U.S. Senate election in Hawai'i, 2014
Party Candidate Votes % +%
Democratic Brian Schatz (inc.) 246,827 69.8%
Republican Cam Cavasso 98,006 27.7%
Libertarian Michael Kokoski 8,941 2.5%


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  5. ^ JStreetPac
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  8. ^ Kery Murakami. "Hawaii Dr. Irwin Schatz' Stand Against Racism Resonates Decades Later - Civil Beat News". Civil Beat News. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
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  13. ^ "U.S. Senator Brian Schatz '94 to Deliver Keynote Speech at Commencement". Pomona College in Claremont, California - Pomona College. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2018-08-07.
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  24. ^ Who Is Brian Schatz, the New U.S. Senator From Hawaii?,, Dec. 27, 2012.
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  26. ^ "Schatz stepping down as Hawaii Democratic Party chair". Hawaii News Now. December 4, 2009. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  27. ^ Brian Schatz Enters Race for Lieutenant Governor Archived June 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., KHON2, January 1, 2010
  28. ^ LG style Q and A with Brian Schatz by Rangar Carlson, Honolulu Weekly, June 30, 2010
  29. ^ Lingle vetoes civil unions bill, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, July 6, 2010.
  30. ^ 2010 Elections website of Hawaii Office of Elections. Retrieved July 20, 2010,
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  33. ^ "Sen. Inouye's letter to Gov. Abercrombie". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
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  37. ^ Bagley, Katherine (Aug 20, 2014). "Q&A: How a SuperPAC on a Shoestring Is Taking on Congress' Climate Apathy". InsideClimate News. Brooklyn, New York. Retrieved Apr 5, 2015.
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  39. ^ "Senator Brian Schatz Wins Closely Fought Democratic Primary in Hawaii". The New York Times. Aug 16, 2014. Retrieved Aug 20, 2014.
  40. ^ "Hawaii General Election 2014" (PDF). Hawaii Office of Elections. Nov 4, 2014. Retrieved Dec 18, 2014.
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  42. ^ a b c Debenedetti, Gabriel (2018-07-19). "The Progressive Hawaii Senator Reshaping the 2020 Race, Without Even Running". Daily Intelligencer. New York Media LLC. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
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  46. ^ "Members". Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Retrieved 17 May 2018.
  47. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  48. ^ "The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  49. ^ Mathis-Lilley, Ben; Hannon, Elliot (15 June 2016). "Senate Democrats' Surprise Gun-Control Filibuster Ended at 2:11 a.m." Slate. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  50. ^ Pignataro, Anthony (20 June 2016). "Hawaii Senators Mazie Hirono, Brian Schatz react to gun control bill failures - Maui Time". Maui Time. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  51. ^ Limon, Alexandria (3 October 2017). "Democrats criticized for talking gun control so soon after Vegas shooting". Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  52. ^ Reyes, B.J. (August 17, 2013). "Congressional Delegation Pushes for Gay Marriage". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. PressReader. Retrieved August 26, 2017.
  53. ^ Dennis, Steven T. (March 27, 2015). "Same-Sex Marriage Benefits Endorsed on Senate Floor (Updated)". Roll Call.
  54. ^ "H.R. 5949: FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (On Passage of the Bill)". December 28, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  55. ^ "U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress – 1st Session". Legislation & Records. United States Senate. Retrieved 2013-07-30.
  56. ^ "U.S. Senate: Roll Call Vote". January 27, 2015. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  57. ^ "Civil liberties groups mobilize against CISA — Will the Chrysler hack make automakers more open to security researchers?". POLITICO. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  58. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (March 10, 2014). "What the Senate's all-nighter on climate change is really about". Washington Post. Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  59. ^ Miller, Erin (October 12, 2014). "U.S. Senate candidates offer diverse choices". West Hawaii Today. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved November 7, 2014.
  60. ^ Carney, Jordain. "Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials". The Hill. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  61. ^ Foran, Clare (2017-10-25). "Can Democrats Revive the Possibility of a Public Option for Health Care?". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  62. ^ Stein, Jeff; Scott, Dylan (2017-08-23). "We asked 7 experts about Sen. Brian Schatz's big new Medicaid buy-in plan". Vox. Retrieved 2018-06-26.
  63. ^ "Off the News". Honolulu Star-Advertiser. July 23, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2012.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Duke Aiona
Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Shan Tsutsui
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Dan Inouye
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Hawaii
Served alongside: Daniel Akaka, Mazie Hirono
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Mike Lee
Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Chris Murphy
Party political offices
Preceded by
Malama Solomon
Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
Succeeded by
Shan Tsutsui
Preceded by
Dan Inouye
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Hawaii
(Class 3)

2014, 2016
Most recent
Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Dean Heller
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Tim Scott