Brian Schatz

Last updated

Brian Schatz
Brian Schatz, official portrait, 113th Congress 2.jpg
United States Senator
from Hawaii
Assumed office
December 26, 2012
Servingwith Mazie Hirono
Preceded by Daniel Inouye
11th Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii
In office
December 6, 2010 December 26, 2012
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Preceded by Duke Aiona
Succeeded by Shan 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
In office
November 3, 1998 November 7, 2006
Preceded bySam Aiona
Succeeded by Della Au Belatti
Constituency24th district (1998–2002)
25th district (2002–2006)
Personal details
Brian Emanuel Schatz

(1972-10-20) October 20, 1972 (age 48)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Other political
Green (formerly)
Spouse(s)Linda Kwok Kai Yun
Education Pomona College (BA)
Signature Brian Schatz Signature.svg
Website Senate website

Brian Emanuel Schatz ( /ʃɑːts/ ; born October 20, 1972) is an American politician serving as the senior United States Senator from Hawaii, a seat he has held since 2012. Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed Schatz to replace Senator Daniel Inouye after Inouye's death.


Schatz served in the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1998 to 2006, representing 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 gubernatorial election as Abercrombie's running mate. [1] He served as lieutenant governor until December 26, 2012, when Abercrombie appointed him to serve the rest of Daniel Inouye's U.S. Senate term after Inouye's death. [2] Schatz was the youngest U.S. Senator in the 112th Congress. He won the 2014 special election to complete the remainder of Inouye's Senate term, and was reelected in 2016 to a full six-year term, defeating Republican John Carroll.

Early life

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'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 that it influenced him to pursue the public good. [5] [6]

When Schatz and his brother were two years old the family moved to Hawaii, [7] where Schatz graduated from Punahou School. [8] [9] Schatz enrolled at Pomona College in Claremont, California; he spent a term studying abroad in Kenya on a program of the School for International Training (SIT). [10] [11] As a U.S. senator, Schatz is one of Pomona’s highest-profile alumni; Pomona invited him to be the commencement speaker for its Class of 2017. [12] After graduating in 1994 with a B.A. in philosophy, he returned to Hawaii, where he taught at Punahou before taking other jobs in the nonprofit sector. For a short while he was a member of the Green Party. [13]

Early career

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. [14]

Hawaii House of Representatives (1998–2006)


In 1998, Schatz challenged the incumbent State Representative of the 24th district of the Hawaii House of Representatives, Republican Sam Aiona, and won, 53%–47%. [15] In the 2000 rematch he was reelected, 57%–43%. [16]

In 2002 he ran in the newly redrawn 25th House district, and defeated Republican Bill Hols, 69%–31%. [17] In 2004 he defeated Republican Tracy Okubo, 64%–36%. [18] The 25th district includes Makiki and Tantalus on Oahu.

Subsequent political career (2006–10)

2006 congressional election

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 the most money, mostly because of the endorsement of EMILY's List, [19] and lent her own campaign $100,000. She won the primary with 22% of the vote, just 845 votes ahead of State Senator Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz finished sixth with 7% of the vote, behind Hirono and four state senators. [20] [21]

Support for Obama

One of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama for president, Schatz founded a group with other Hawaii Democrats in December 2006 to urge Obama to run, saying, "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." [22] In 2008 Schatz worked as spokesman for Obama's campaign in Hawaii. [23]

State Chairman

In April 2008 Schatz began running for the position of chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, [24] 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; just 55% of the state voted for Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004. Schatz stepped down as party chairman on January 9, 2010. [25]

Lieutenant Governor (2010–12)

2010 election

Schatz, his wife, Linda Kwok Kai Yun Schatz; incoming Hawaii First Lady Nancie Caraway; and Governor-elect Neil Abercrombie on Election Day 2010. Abercrombie and Schatz 2010.jpg
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 lieutenant governor of Hawaii. [26] His 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, [27] which would have allowed same-sex civil unions in Hawaii but was vetoed by Republican Governor Linda Lingle. [28] A number of Hawaii labor unions endorsed Schatz for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary, held on September 18, 2010. [29] Schatz won the nomination with 34.8% 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 Republican incumbent Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona in the gubernatorial election. Hawaii State Supreme Court Associate Justice James E. Duffy, Jr. administered the oath of office at the Coronation Pavilion on the grounds of ʻIolani Palace.

U.S. Senate (2012–present)


Shortly before Senator Daniel Inouye died on December 17, 2012, [30] he dictated a letter to Governor Neil Abercrombie asking that U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa be appointed to finish his term. [31] [32]

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 deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Esther Kia'aina. The same day, Abercrombie appointed Schatz, despite Inouye's request. [33] Later that night, Schatz accompanied President Barack Obama back to Washington, D.C. on Air Force One. [34] 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 Senator Daniel Akaka, took office one week later on January 3, 2013). He became only the sixth person to represent Hawaii in the U.S. Senate, and only the second who was not Asian American, after Oren E. Long (1959–1963).

2014 election

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 Hanabusa announced she would challenge Schatz in the primary. The core of the Schatz campaign was climate change and renewable energy. [35] Schatz defeated Hanabusa by 1,782 votes (0.75%) [36] in a primary delayed in two precincts by Hurricane Iselle. [37]

As expected in heavily Democratic Hawaii, Schatz went on to win the general election, defeating Republican Campbell Cavasso with about 70% of the vote. [38]

2016 election

In 2016, Schatz ran for and easily won his first full six-year Senate term against only nominal opposition. [39]

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. [40]


Schatz was participating in the certification of the 2021 United States Electoral College count when Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol. He called the storming "despicable." [41] As a result of the attack, Schatz called for Trump's removal from office through both the invocation of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the impeachment process. [42] Schatz called Trump a “danger to democracy itself." [43]

Committee assignments (116th Congress)

Leadership positions

  • Chief Deputy Whip [44] [45]
  • Co-chair, Senate Climate Change Task Force [46]
  • Chair, Senate Democratic Special Committee on the Climate Crisis [47]
  • Member, Board of Trustees for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship foundation

Caucus memberships

Political positions

According to New York magazine, Schatz is a progressive but not a "Sanders-style bomb-thrower." [40] He was characterized as a low-profile yet highly influential Senator in pushing fellow Democrats to adopt progressive policy positions. [40]

Gun law

As of 2010, the National Rifle Association had given Schatz a "C" rating for his mixed voting record regarding gun law. [50]

He participated in the Chris Murphy gun control filibuster in 2016. [51] Schatz expressed disappointment, along with fellow Hawaii senator 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: [52]

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." [53]


Schatz supports same-sex marriage. [54] He sponsored legislation in 2015 to allow married gay couples to have equal access to the veterans benefits and Social Security they have earned. [55]

Privacy rights

In one of his first votes in the U.S. Senate, he voted against renewing the FISA Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012. [56] On April 17, 2013, he voted to expand background checks for gun purchases. [57]

Schatz voted for the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill opposed by many civil liberties groups. [58] [59]


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. [60] He has received a perfect score from the League of Conservation Voters. [61]

In 2019, Schatz voiced his support for both a Green New Deal and a carbon tax as means to reduce emissions, saying that the two proposals are "perfectly compatible" with each other. [62] [63]


To encourage tourism in West Hawaii, Schatz proposed that customs begin in Japan so that planes can arrive in West Hawaii as domestic flights. [64]

Foreign policy

Schatz criticized China's island-building activities, saying that "China’s outsized claim to the entire South China Sea has no basis in international law." [65]

In October 2017, Schatz condemned the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar and called for a stronger response to the crisis. [66]

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. [67]

Health care

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. [68] [69]


In April 2019, Schatz was one of forty-one senators to sign a bipartisan letter to the housing subcommittee praising the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 4 Capacity Building program as authorizing "HUD to partner with national nonprofit community development organizations to provide education, training, and financial support to local community development corporations (CDCs) across the country" and expressing disappointment that President Trump's budget "has slated this program for elimination after decades of successful economic and community development." The senators wrote of their hope that the subcommittee would support continued funding for Section 4 in Fiscal Year 2020. [70]

Personal life

Schatz is married to Linda Kwok Kai Yun. They have two children.[ citation needed ]

Schatz has three brothers, including an identical twin brother, Steve. Steve is executive director of Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education, an interagency educational partnership at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. [71] He formerly ran the Hawaii Department of Education's Office of Strategic Reform. [72]

Electoral history

Democratic primary results [73]
Democratic Brian Schatz83,43134.8
Democratic Robert Bunda45,97319.2
Democratic Norman Sakamoto44,46218.5
Democratic Gary Hooser22,8789.5
Democratic Lyla Berg20,1618.4
Democratic Jon Riki Karamatsu6,7462.8
Democratic Steve Hirakami2,6951.1
Total votes226,346 100
Hawaii gubernatorial election, 2010 [74]
Democratic Neil Abercrombie / Brian Schatz 222,724 57.8%
Republican Duke Aiona / Lynn Finnegan 157,31140.8%
Free Energy PartyDaniel Cunningham / Deborah Spence1,265.3%
Non-partisanTom Pollard / Leonard Kama1,263.3%
Turnout 380,03555.7%
Democratic gain from Republican
Democratic primary results [75]
Democratic Brian Schatz (incumbent) 115,445 48.5%
Democratic Colleen Hanabusa 113,66347.7%
Democratic Brian Evans4,8422.0%
Democratic Blank vote 3,8421.6%
Democratic Over vote 1500.2%
Total votes237,942 100.0%
United States Senate special election in Hawaii, 2014 [76]
Democratic Brian Schatz (incumbent) 246,827 69.78% -5.03%
Republican Campbell Cavasso98,00627.70%+6.13%
Libertarian Michael Kokoski8,9412.52%+1.72%
Total votes'353,774''100.0%'N/A
Democratic hold
U.S. Senate Election Hawaii 2016 - Democratic primary election [77] [78] [79]
Democratic Brian Schatz (Incumbent) 162,891 86.17%
Democratic Makani Christensen11,8986.29%
Democratic Miles Shiratori8,6204.56%
Democratic Arturo Reyes3,8192.02%
Democratic Tutz Honeychurch1,8150.96%
Total votes189,043 100.00%
U.S. Senate Election Hawaii 2016 [80]
Democratic Brian Schatz (Incumbent) 306,604 70.1% N/A
Republican John Carroll92,65321.2%N/A
Constitution Joy Allison9,1032.1%N/A
Libertarian Michael Kokowski6,8091.6%N/A
Independent John Giuffre1,3930.3%
Blank votes 20,7634.7%
Over votes 3390.0%
Total votes437,664 100.0%
Democratic hold Swing

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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
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Lee
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Tim Scott